What would it take to roll out 5G? If you look at the models, then you may find that you, as a small business, could get in on the ground floor of building a network or capitalizing on the carriers that will build out 5G. Let’s look over the models, what the carriers will probably do, and how you can build your own network.
To cover the way that the carriers hope to, especially if they rely on mmwave to improve throughput. They will need to rely on more partners for coverage. I don’t mean other carriers, that’s already been played out.
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Understand each carriers’ plan.
- Verizon – They are counting on mmwave to pave the way. While they want it to be in the devices to enhance coverage, they seem to be counting on a fixed wireless business model to use 5G first. That seems to be the business model they are advertising. I think that they will upgrade the mobile system to 5G at some point, wherever it falls on the roadmap. But, the 5G system will cost a lot of money. I would bet they’re creating this plan and working with specific OEMs to make this happen. In fact, they seem to be aligning more and more with Ericsson and Samsung to make this happen.
- AT&T – they seem to be following a similar plan to Verizon. They seem to be counting on the fixed wireless to bring new services to homes that rely on satellite now. They also want to compete in urban markets where the cable companies rule. It all makes sense, doesn’t it? The thing I don’t hear them talk about is mobile 5G. I am not sure why, but maybe the FirstNet build may be taking longer than they thought. Remember, the commitment to FirstNet gave them spectrum, but they have to cover more of the country with said spectrum. That is going to take time and cost money. While it was easy for FirstNet, it costs a lot of money for AT&T just to make a dent in the public safety market. I thought they might upgrade the sites to 5G at the same time, but maybe the technology isn’t there yet.
- T-Mobile – no secret here, T-Mobile is already trying to get 5G out to the markets just as a marketing ploy. They are smart; they know that 5G will push people to buy new devices and sign up for service. They just need more spectrum to make it worthwhile. They are rolling out 600MHz the best they can and making it 5G ready. They are working to get massive MIMO deployed. The thing is, 600MHz isn’t exactly the best band to deploy massive MIMO or 5G in, is it? The antennas are big, and the spectrum can cover a large area, both features get in the way of high-speed data, on paper anyway. I’m sure that if anyone can make it work, it will be T-Mobile. However, they looked at Sprint and wanted that 2.5GHz spectrum, for all the reasons listed above.
- Sprint – here is a carrier that has the spectrum than any other carrier would want, 2.5GHz. It is the ideal spectrum for a data-centric The only thing that they need s money! Well lucky for them they have T-Mobile trying to merge with them. I have to give Dr. John Saw credit, the path to 5G that he laid out is quite impressive. To go to massive MIMO, then to 5G, across the USA by 2020 is spectacular. They seem to have a plan in place to do it. Do they have the money? I hope so. At least enough until T-Mobile can chip in. They also have the Magic Box, their small cell that has wireless backhaul. That is awesome. Sprint has so many pieces of the puzzle that make them a front-runner in 5G. If they can maintain and hold it together and make it happen, I will be impressed. In the past, the plans rarely got executed well. Can they do it right this time? Again, I am rooting for them. I hope they don’t let us all down.
There are other carriers in the USA, but it’s hard to see many of them making the investments that the big boys are. It takes a lot of money to roll out these systems and the unlimited data plans are going to make profitability tough in a nearly saturated market.
What we need is the next big thing that will help add some margin to the bottom line. Like new business cases. That is here with IOT, but that’s all low-income but easy to maintain. New broadband applications would make it easy to add margin, but what will the investments be? We’re all hoping to see augmented reality with wireless devices. Pokémon lives proved that it can be done, but is it enough?
The carrier’s need partners for coverage.
The carriers are going to need 2 things to make 5G work, backhaul and partners to gain the coverage they hope to get. It appears that the carriers are no longer going to cover building unless the payback is very clear and substantial. They will not pay to be on someone’s DAS system anymore. They might pay for maintenance and upkeep, but the days of monthly rent are disappearing. They need to see value for their money up front.
However, the carriers can’t cover all the area themselves. We need to have in building coverage. We need to have venue coverage. It is a necessity for safety’s sake. Let’s face it; the carriers won’t pay so if the building owner can do it then it might be a win-win. I think the building owners should get a tax write off if they are willing to install the equipment and possibly use existing backhaul to connect to a carrier. Then it would be a great situation for emergencies when people on the scene call for help no matter where they are in the building. If AT&T is building out FirstNet, they should take advantage of this to have the FirstNet spectrum in every building with emergency power. In fact, the building owners already need to put in the public safety DAS, why can’t we add FirstNet small cells everywhere and connect them through the local internet connection to AT&T’s FirstNet core? Better yet, test out Sprint’s Magic Box and see if it works and makes that the emergency backup, then the backhaul problem is solved, and Sprint makes a little money off the deal.
I want to point out that there are solutions to this problem, and it is a problem. I talked about emergency coverage in my blog at https://wade4wireless.com/2018/07/06/should-emergency-indoor-carrier-coverage-be-a-requirement-yes/, and I think it should be a priority. How many more people have to die before we realize we need it? Schools, venues, stores, buildings, and so on. Sorry, got way off topic here.
My point is that the carriers can’t, sorry, I mean won’t do it all themselves. They need to see the payback. However, they don’t like to share or give outsiders access to their network. This is changing. Look at how Verizon is teaming up with the cable companies. They realize they need partners; the cable companies want to sell mobile systems as part of their packages. I think the alignment is great. I think that cables companies are ready to deploy their own small cells to enhance coverage. They have built successful Wi-Fi systems for their existing customer. Why not take it a step farther by offering licensed coverage. I don’t know what the plan is, but they could offer LTE-U or CBRS or even deploy carrier licensed boxes if the partnership allows it. All the same, it is a great example of larger companies partnering.
How does this help the smaller businesses? I think that they could offer to put small cells in their buildings, venues, or even align with the cable companies to have them do it. It’s just a situation, but cable companies already put Wi-Fi in some buildings, it is a viable model for them to do it. They need to see a payback, so they may only do it where it makes enough business sense.
Read along at https://www.fiercewireless.com/tech/another-major-cable-operator-ditches-fiber-for-fixed-wireless?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWkdJNU4yVTROakV5WXpVMiIsInQiOiJmUWlGN2pLcm8xYUdiQjJHdGpVV2dLTmgyc3Y3U1JKWmdLaUxaNXNVcjVQMTBQeWlpNEM0dEpzMmdBWDFnaUg1dERlNkNpaUxsclZ1ODY0ckNUMU5aN2p3cE55Vjk1M3R3aFVXMXA3UEtncFB0eGxyTzhZUVV0eVhVNFhyaCtRaCJ9&mrkid=26530343 to learn more about Verizon teaming up with cable companies.
What about building a private 5G network?
Can you build your own 5G network? Of course, you can use LTE-U or CBRS to start, but Qualcomm is working on the 5G NR format, by 2020 I would think you can get a device in the shared spectrum that can handle the 5G format or you can build out LTE in your own office. How?
The way you can play along is to create your own internal network just like you did with Wi-Fi. The great thing is now you will have more options, like CBRS and LTE-U instead of just Wi-Fi. You can allow selected devices onto your network.
With Qualcomm offering MuLTEfire which is a stand-alone LTU-U option, it will allow you to build your own LTE network and may even let you build some type of 5G NR system in 2020. While this seems far off, it’s really not.
You need to identify what your system will do, what customers it will serve. If it’s just for broadband access, Wi-Fi is fine. It will allow you to offload your current device and wireless broadband anywhere in your office, building, or campus. Typical use in today’s workplace.
If you need a secure system, then maybe CBRS would serve you better. If you’re in need of a low latency system, this could also work for you. This may be if you have specific applications, like manufacturing or controlling devices that need real-time monitoring or maintenance. You could try LTE-U, but if you also have Wi-Fi, there may be some issues. To learn more on CBRS and LTE-U, go to https://wade4wireless.com/2018/02/05/laa-cbrs-lte-u-are-5g-building-blocks/.
If you’re looking at IOT for monitoring of devices, low data throughput, and many devices, then look at something in the 900MHz range. It should be as easy as Wi-Fi to set up once you learn the systems. You have plenty of RF choices like ZigBee, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, and even Wi-Fi. It all depends on your application. To learn more on IOT go to these links.
Where will the backhaul come from?
The backhaul has to be more than fiber. The wireless backhaul systems are cheaper, easier to install and engineer, and pass more data than ever in the new spectrum bands. However, wireless still presents challenges. It’s a cost up front, takes up way more real estate than a fiber drop, and can be a challenge to maintain.
Here is where it matters where you’re installing the system. Many people are connecting building using wireless. They can go from rooftop to rooftop and offer fiber-like speeds from the roof down throughout the building. Giving the residents or businesses an alternative to cable ISP.
I bring this up because if you want to provide broadband to the building as backhaul to the small cell for expansion, then you need to use all the resources you can. If you can provide the backhaul for the small cell, then do it. Whether it’s wireless or fiber, the landlord probably will provide something anyway, why not offer it as an addition to make the small cell happen.
If the tenants of a building want to have coverage, then they could offer a place for the small cells to be installed and share their existing backhaul.
Then there is the alternative like Sprint’s Magic Box; it would be great if it can just set on a window sill, be plugged in, and offer indoor coverage. This is something that you could easily offer
Could you provide the backhaul? Yes, in your building you could supply the backhaul, but you would need to meet the carriers’ standards for that model. If it’s a femtocell, then no problem. If they are putting in a mini macro or a macro site, then they will demand dark fiber for all backhaul and fronthaul.
Backhaul is still a deterrent to deploying small cells. Small cells need backhaul. The carriers want a cost-effective solution. If they have partners that provide a viable solution, they may wake up and listen.
What part could you play in the 5G ecosystem?
Here’s the deal, the carriers have all of you personally to thank for the Wi-Fi offload that you and your ISP, (in my case I have a Comcast cable modem with 2 Wi-Fi routers), to offload all that crap you do on your smartphone at home. They are grateful, even though they would never admit it because then some people might want a discount. FYI, a carrier discount is NOT going to happen!
For you as an individual, I would not expect anything from the carriers that you didn’t pay for. However, if you own a small business or a building, then maybe they will partner with you. They won’t pay you anything unless you have a lot to bring, but they may let their customers roam onto your DAS or small cell system.
If you want to be part of the 5G network, offer up solutions. I think that the CBRS will evolve, LTE is going to be sucked in eventually. The real 5G networks use the 5G NR solution, and if Qualcomm has their way, everyone will have a 5G NR radio available to them. I know I want one to replace my Wi-Fi router. Why not, it sounds cool, and maybe Qualcomm can come up with a MuLTEfire system for the 5G NR system where we won’t need a core to run our own 5G, just like Wi-Fi or even LTE-U. That is a win for me!
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