Islands in the Stream: Don't Expect Full mmWave 5G Coverage in US, Says Nokia

Dan Jones
11/17/2016
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Nokia's US CTO isn't expecting high-speed 5G millimeter wave networks will ever blanket the country in the way that 4G LTE networks do now, simply because the technologies are different.

Talking to me Tuesday, Michael Murphy, CTO of North America at Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), explained that he expected high-speed millimeter wave, which will initially be deployed in the 28GHz and 39GHz bands in the US, to be used to create high-speed broadband "5G islands or zones" in select American cities.

"It's not going to be deployed nationwide like 4G was," Murphy said. "There's pretty much zero chance of that happening, maybe forever."

This is because millimeter waves at 28GHz can deliver gigabit speeds over short distances in the air using "beamforming" that connects the signal to a single device over the best possible path, but is subject to foliage interference, line-of-sight issues and other problems. In contrast, 4G LTE at 700MHz has been used by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless to cover the US population. (See Helping Millimeter Wave Achieve Its Potential.)

High-speed 5G broadband zones, which could promise services at least ten times faster than 4G, would be deployed in major cities, likely in the areas where a carrier could get the best return on their investment.


For all the latest news on 5G, visit the 5G site here on Light Reading.


Murphy expects that a lower-band layer of 5G will have to provide coverage and incrementally better performance over LTE. "Yep, that's how a lot of countries are looking at it now."

Murphy suggests that 3.5GHz is becoming a de-facto option for low-band 5G. Europe and CHina are almost 100% confirmed for N42 and N43 [3.4-3.6GHz bands]," he says.

Since China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) can encourage the development of a 3.5GHz-based silicon and hardware infrastructure by itself, that makes the availability of low-cost 3.5GHz chipsets much more likely. (See Google, LTE-U & the Question of a Wireless Broadband Future and Tech Giants Team Up on 3.5GHz Initiative.)

3.5GHz is a shared public band in the US, still Murphy still thinks it could be used by carriers and "new entrants" for low-band 5G.

In tests so far, however, Nokia is not finding that applying beamforming techniques to the lower band offers much performance improvement.

"5G gives you better gains the higher the frequency," he says. This is because the higher you go the smaller the antennas can be and the more can be packed into an array.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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TV Monitor
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TV Monitor,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/23/2016 | 7:18:56 PM
Re: Speaking of timing
Dan Jones

When you read the proposed CBRS regulation, it's pretty much a nightmare, so basestations and compatible handsets will not come quickly, nor can the CBRS match the raw bandwidth of 28 Ghz mmwave 5G.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
11/23/2016 | 2:20:58 PM
Re: Speaking of timing
no probs! sorry we can't be more specific yet,
eafpres1
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eafpres1,
User Rank: Light Beer
11/23/2016 | 1:56:13 PM
Re: Speaking of timing
Thank you for the clarifcations.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
11/23/2016 | 12:24:22 PM
Re: Speaking of timing
oh yeah, on devices, I'm guessing that 3.5GHz will be the first thing that Google tries as a wireless fiber replacement. So the devices will be more like LTE home routers to start. They've asked the FCC if they can use more transmit power than others are using, so think enhanced small cell type ranges to start.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
11/23/2016 | 12:24:22 PM
Re: Speaking of timing
oh yeah, on devices, I'm guessing that 3.5GHz will be the first thing that Google tries as a wireless fiber replacement. So the devices will be more like LTE home routers to start. They've asked the FCC if they can use more transmit power than others are using, so think enhanced small cell type ranges to start.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
11/23/2016 | 12:11:54 PM
Re: Speaking of timing
That's right, 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum is scheduled to go ahead of 28GHz auctions. When all of this happens exactly depends on when the 600MHz auction is completed, which looks like 1st quarter of 2017 but who knows exactly?
TV Monitor
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TV Monitor,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/23/2016 | 11:48:07 AM
Re: Speaking of timing
eafpres1

On question 1. US 3.5 Ghz block is not a normal LTE/Low-band 5G block like it is elsewhere, it is shared with military and requires special device registration with FCC. Accordingly handsets would not be "normal" types as well.

On question 2. No. 2020 is for 28 Ghz mmwave 5G, not for 3.5 Ghz CBRS service.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
11/22/2016 | 6:25:02 PM
Re: Speaking of timing
Actually, Murphy & Nokia are carrying out the LTE testing with Google. he thinks it is only logical they could move onto 5G afterward.

Timing is tricky because the 600MHz auction is dragging on. Opening up 3.5GHz should follow that, but with the sharing issues and developing an ecosystem, does that happen before 2020?

Hard to be sure about that yet.
eafpres1
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eafpres1,
User Rank: Light Beer
11/22/2016 | 11:22:38 AM
Speaking of timing
Hey Dan--thanks as always for the great intel.  

Question1:  Is it possible that Google and the telcos may roll out 3.5 GHz as some form of LTE and "migrate" to 5G?

Question2:  From your discussions do you think 3.5GHz 5G could arrive in the US before the 2020 target everyone is talking about?
TV Monitor
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TV Monitor,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/19/2016 | 12:06:45 PM
Re: And why does Nokia want to compete directly with Chinese vendors?
Dan Jones

The return on investment of 3.4~3.6 Ghz blocks will be a lot less than the 28 Ghz blocks.

For example, you have 4 x 50 Mhz TDD blocks or 2 x 100 Mhz TDD blocks, because single carrier cannot have all 200 Mhz.

Even if you get the 100 Mhz TDD block, the peak throughput per cell is limited to 3 gbits/s in real world conditions. You will be running out of bandwidth quickly.
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