Vodafone CTO 'Worried' About 5G mmWave Hype

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2017 -- Vodafone CTO Johann Wibergh has admitted to feeling "worried" about the hype surrounding so-called millimeter wave (or mmWave) technology.

mmWave uses much higher spectrum bands than operators have previously deployed with their mobile networks. Because more spectrum is available in these ranges, the technology is ideally suited to providing the very highest-speed services associated with 5G.

The drawback is that signals travel over relatively short distances in higher spectrum bands, forcing operators to build out more site equipment. Relatively minor obstacles can also become major barriers to signals in these ranges.

"I am personally a bit worried about all the hype on mmWave," said Wibergh during a press conference at this year's Mobile World Congress arranged by the Next Generation Mobile Network (NGMN) Alliance, an association of operators that feeds ideas into network standardization activities.

"It is certainly good to have spectrum available and you will get gigabit speeds, but if that signal even runs into leaves on a tree it doesn't work," said Wibergh. "There are some practical problems on how to build with mmWave -- there might be hotspot areas where you can use it but I think sub-6GHz is the sweet spot for 5G."

The comments provide clues about the way Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) could deploy 5G services across its European markets from 2020, when the first standardized version of the technology is due to make a commercial appearance.

Vodafone seems likely to rely heavily on so-called mid-band spectrum between 3.5GHz and 3.7GHz for more wide-scale deployments of 5G, with the much higher frequency ranges used in very densely populated or busy areas, like city centers and airports.

Vodafone is not the only European operator to have raised concern this week about the cost implications of higher frequency technologies.

Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), which earlier in the week promised to introduce 5G technology across "100%" of its network footprint, says major industry collaboration will be needed to drive deployment costs down to a manageable level. (See DT CTO: Costs Must Fall or 5G 'Won't Work' and DT Plots 5G Across Entire Footprint.)

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, Deutsche Telekom's CTO, reckons a cell site based on 28GHz spectrum -- the focus of early 5G efforts by Verizon Wireless in the US -- would have diameter of just 80 meters. A recent Barclays report estimates that deploying a nationwide 28GHz network in the US would cost about €300 billion ($318 billion), he says.

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Light Reading.

Such costs are simply not feasible, Jacobfeuerborn told Light Reading on the sidelines of MWC. He hopes that by working with other industry stakeholders to "decouple" the radio access network control plane from the user plane, Deutsche Telekom will in future be able to make use of much lower-cost standardized hardware, shifting critical capabilities into the software domain, and improve the 5G economics.

However, Jacobfeuerborn also talks up the attractions of sub-6GHz spectrum in a 5G context and says that 5G is likely to co-exist with the fast-developing 4G standard for many years to come.

That view is shared by Vijay Perumbeti, the vice president of standards and industry alliances for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). "The 5G ecosystem will include 4G for a long time, unlike with 3G where we really want to get rid of it," he said. "There is a lot of life left in 4G."

Speaking at the same NGMN press conference, Alain Maloberti, the senior vice president of Orange Labs -- the research arm of France's Orange (NYSE: FTE) -- said the operator's initial deployments were also likely to focus on sub-GHz spectrum bands, including the 3.5-3.7GHz ranges as well as even lower 700MHz spectrum.

US operators represented on the panel appeared to offer stronger support for higher frequencies, with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) CTO Guenther Ottendorfer saying he expects deployments to happen "at both ends of the spectrum scale."

"Fixed wireless access operators will obviously work with high spectrum but sub-6GHz will be necessary for everything with mobile and that is a focus for us," he said.

Those comments came just a day after Sprint said it might push its own 2.5GHz band as a 5G band. (See Sprint Gets Ready for Massive MIMO, Eyes 2.5GHz for 5G.)

Several operators working on the commercialization of 28GHz spectrum, including Verizon, believe a key "use case" for the technology will be serving last-mile connections into homes and businesses, essentially providing a fixed wireless access alternative to fixed-line technologies.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

drwireless 3/5/2017 | 11:47:10 AM
Re: European telco's lack of experience with Samsung 5G is the reason behind such concerns In fact, the reflective characteristics of mmWave is a good thing as it allows NLOS propagation; this is especially helpful in urban and dense environments albeit for relatively short ranges (expect 20-30 dB penalty due to NLOS, i.e., typical ranges of 100's of meters).

Another point, the myth about mmWave that they are suitable for short distances is false, i.e., the physics does not limit mmWave from being used for longer ranges. We have analysed multi-gigabit LOS backhaul links that can reach 10's of Km depending on the size/gain of the adaptive antenna array (e.g., using around 40 dBi array gain in E-band).

Jacob Sharony, Ph.D., Mobius Consulting
TV Monitor 3/2/2017 | 3:55:18 PM
Re: European telco's lack of experience with Samsung 5G is the reason behind such concerns "samsung have no miracle technology that helps deal with the density issues of mmwave"

The way Samsung 5G works is that highly focused pencil beams of mmwave is directly targetted to the user equipment's antenna by the basestation antenna with a margin of inches; this is why Samsung 5G can reach miles on LOS setting and at least half a mile in highly dense urban setting while other competing technologies fall apart at mere 300 feet. ETRI, the technology supplier to Samsung 5G, is also working on radiowave focusing lense that would triple the range of Samsung 5G.

Additionally, this means that the spectrum can be recycled as long as two user equipments do not occupy same space; call it spatial frequency recycling.
NeilMcRae 3/2/2017 | 3:29:25 PM
Re: European telco's lack of experience with Samsung 5G is the reason behind such concerns samsung have no miracle technology that helps deal with the density issues of mmwave, and the last thing you want in mmwave is for the signal to be reflective. it needs LOS to be effective...
TV Monitor 2/28/2017 | 4:03:27 PM
Re: mmWave necessary for 5G drwireless

"This is mainly for low mobility closer to a small-cell/base-station. "

Samsung 5G supports highway cruising speed, currently upto 95 mph, although that might have been the speed limit of the van that was running on race trak. You can place a 5G small cell along the highway every 2 mile and provide seemless mmwave 5G connectivity.

Again, misunderstanding on mmwave 5G stems from one's experience with Ericsson or Nokia equipment. 
drwireless 2/28/2017 | 12:47:18 PM
mmWave necessary for 5G The concerns of Vodafone CTO are justified but lets keep in mind that we are still in the early phase of (pre) 5G. Propagation is certainly an issue but mmWave is highly reflective so line of site (LoS) is not always necessary. In fact, propagation studies conducted recently by NYU Wireless have shown up to 200m non-LoS connectivity from a base-station. More work is needed to develop accurate propagation models.

We need to distinguish between fixed broadband access and mobile access:

1. For fixed broadband access, no doubt that mmWave is necessary to keep costs down. mmWave will provide multi-gigabit "wireless fiber" backhaul to network infrastructure, e.g., small-cells, WiFi AP's, and will play an important role in smart cities, connecting enterprises and homes. Most network infrastructure equipment will require  > 1Gbps; sub-6 GHz does not have enough spectrum, and digging streets and laying fiber will be cost prohibitive. 

2. For mobile access, mmWave will be an overlay on top of 4G+ LTE providing mobile access in dense areas (e.g., malls, airports, stadiums, etc.). In this role mmWave will be a complementary technology to 4G+ LTE. This is mainly for low mobility closer to a small-cell/base-station. 

Jacob Sharony, Ph.D.,  Mobius Consulting
TV Monitor 2/28/2017 | 10:59:11 AM
European telco's lack of experience with Samsung 5G is the reason behind such concerns European Telco's concerns with mmwave 5G stems from their lack of experience with Samsung 5G, because all the experiences they had were offerings from Ericsson and Nokia and they are indeed terrible.

Telcos that played with Samsung 5G, such as KT, Verizon, NTT Docomo, and KDDI are all gung ho about Samsung 5G and want to deploy it as soon as 2019, because they are convinced Samsung 5G works in real world.
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