America: A Tale of at Least Two 5Gs
Perhaps more than with any mobile standard developed so far, the speed, capacity, and coverage of the 5G standard will be entirely dependent on the spectrum used, which has serious ramifications for its deployment for the US and beyond.
What is already apparent is that there will be a bifurcation of early strategies among US carriers over 5G services, which are due to start arriving late this year: You can have Gigabit speeds over short distances, if conditions are right, or you can have better-than-4G speeds with good coverage and signal propogation, but no Gigabit for you!
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) are promising Gigabit -- or close to Gigabit downloads -- at 2,000 feet (VZ), or 900 feet (AT&T), after their fixed wireless tests. Verizon's claims on the range have recently been backed by supplier, Samsung Corp. , after its final approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week. (See Samsung Gets FCC Go-Ahead to Bring Verizon 5G to Sactown.)
Meanwhile, T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) said that if their merger passes the regulatory sniff test, they will deliver a 450-Mbit/s mobile 5G network -- mainly over 600MHz and 2.5GHz -- starting in the second half of 2019. That's if the merger closes. Remember: T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray told me back in February that he "would love to see" a tripling of average T-Mobile 4G LTE speeds (around 30 Mbit/s) with T-Mobile's initial 5G service on 600MHz, due to start in the first half of 2019. (See T-Mobile to Roll Out 5G in 30 US Cities in 2018.)
You might think that the proposed Sprint/T-Mobile has thrown all of this into sharp relief. That, however, is not the case, this bifurcation was always going to happen. At the moment, only Verizon has the millimeter wave spectrum to consider anything approaching a nationwide rollout of the high-band 5G. Meanwhile, T-Mobile's Ray claims it will cost "$1.5 trillion" for any carrier to consider a nationwide rollout of millimeter wave 5G in the US. (See T-Mobile to Buy Sprint for $26.5B to Create US 5G Powerhouse.)
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure's statement that the proposed merger will bring "the latest technology" to "rural" areas seems far-fetched. The "new" T-Mobile will still be a public company, and thus, shareholders are likely to prefer better speeds and service in Chicago than Elkhart, Indiana. (See Can the 'New' T-Mobile Make America's Networks Great Again?)
Of course, all of this relies on early test results and carrier statements. We haven't seen mobile -- or loaded network -- tests from AT&T or Verizon yet. While Sprint or T-Mobile won't even get to do combined network 5G tests until -- or if -- the merger is approved.
As of now, you can see how 5G deployment plans are split in the US.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading