Charlie Ergen, the wireless industry’s version of the international man of mystery, outlined his two-phase, IoT followed by 5G, plan for deploying his bountiful spectrum portfolio before a packed audience at the Connectivity Expo, Connect (x), conducted by the Wireless Infrastructure Association, this week in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was interviewed by Former FCC Commissioner, now with Cooley LLP, Rob McDowell in a keynote session.
“We are in a bit of an awkward position with only 5 megahertz of spectrum for uplink that has been cleared nationwide in the H Band, so we will go through two phases,” said Ergen, co-founder and chairman of Dish Network. “In the first phase we will build a nationwide network for narrowband IoT and in the second phase we will build a complete 5G network.”
Ergen began buying spectrum 15 years ago and in the last three auctions was the highest bidder. He pins his hopes on the timing of the network deployment.
“It’s all about timing; too early you are roadkill, if you get it just right you have a chance,” Ergen said. “We missed the 4G shift because of the regulatory reasons. The next big paradigm shift is 5G.”
Narrowband IoT Network Build
Facing an FCC-imposed deadline of a little more than 650 days, Ergen is focused on moving forward with IoT network building. Radios have been ordered, the core network will be built out this summer and testing will begin this fall, with the help of multiple partnerships in the industry. It will cost between $500 million and $1 billion.
“We are new. We have never built a terrestrial network before,” he said. “We are not the world’s experts, but have an open mind and we will partner with people who do know how.” Dish has signed master lease agreements with tower companies and is partnering with companies in the wireless infrastructure industry to do permitting, RF planning and design of the network.
5G Broadband Network Build
When the narrowband IoT network is built, Ergen will shift his focus to the 5G network, which he said will cost $10 billion to build. He believes his timing is just right. Dish will use just under 100 megahertz, combining low-band 600 MHz and mid-band spectrum at 2 GHz, for the network. The 600 MHz spectrum will not be cleared until July of 2020, the same year 3GPP will complete the 5G standard.
Ergen said he will use additional spectrum that comes on the market, conceivably millimeter wave, for the small cell component.
“We don’t think it is the right thing to do to use the same frequencies for small cells that we do in macrocells, because there are interference issues there,” he said.
Additionally, Dish has been pushing the FCC to include the Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service (MVDDS) spectrum in the 12.2 to 12.7 GHz band in the 5G Spectrum Frontiers allocation. That is 500 megahertz of spectrum and will be easy to repurpose, according to Ergen, because it has only two incumbents: DirecTV and Dish Network.
What Did We Learn?
Charlie’s plain-spoken style belies his closet-to-the-vest approach to discussing his company’s plans. He is at once self deprecating and confident. We learned a little more about the timeline for the narrowband IoT network buildout. He spoke a lot about partnerships but divulged none of them. His apparent seat-of-the-pants, startup approach, however, may be a perfect fit for the 5G.
Ergen has the heart of an entrepreneur and he compared building out 5G to the challenges he faced revolutionizing the satellite industry. “Adventure,” he said, is part of his corporate culture.
“We have two disadvantages; We don’t [have many] customers and we are not as knowledgeable as other people in the business, but we don’t have the legacy of 2G, 3G, 4G switch networks. We have a clean sheet of paper with 5G,” he said. “It reminds me of 1990 when we decided to reinvent ourselves from the big dish business to small dish. It took 5 years to design and build that system with not one penny of revenue, and we obsoleted the business we were in.
“When we got into satellites, we didn’t know anything about it, but neither did anyone else. It is the same with 5G/IoT. We are not the world’s experts, but neither is anyone else,” Ergen added.
J. Sharpe Smith
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: email@example.com.
The chief technology officer and cofounder at Cambridge Broadband Networks (CBNL), John Naylon, Ph.D., spoke with AGL eDigestabout the company’s licensed point-to-multipoint microwave technology at Connectivity Expo (Connect (x), a convention conducted by the Wireless Industry Association.
He explained how Cellcom, a wireless company with customers in Wisconsin and Michigan, uses CBNL’s 28-GHz VectaStar platform as a backhaul solution in its outdoor small cell strategy to increase capacity and coverage for its LTE service. He said that Cellcom completed an initial trial of the 28-GHz platform and now plans to use the technology to backhaul some of the company’s first LTE outdoor small cells as a densification strategy.
“By choosing CBNL’s leading millimeter wave technology, Cellcom is maximizing the benefits of spectrum that holds exceptional levels of capacity, as highlighted recently by the FCC, which opened it up to deliver 5G wireless communications,” Naylon said. “VectaStar innovatively reuses spectrum to offer efficient use of the 28-GHz band. For example, the VectaStar platform’s dynamic µ-TDMA scheduling can offer up to 4.4 Gbps of provisioned capacity per sector from just 100 megahertz of spectrum. The capacity of VectaStar, together with total cost of ownership savings of up to 50 per cent compared to licensed point-to-point, has provided Cellcom with a business case to unlock some real benefits from millimeter wave.”
The CBNL executive gave an example of how millimeter wave transforms services in a smart city. He said that the European Union (EU) funded the Metropolitan Telecommunication Network (MTN) in Rzeszów, a city with a population of 187,000 (including 95,000 students) and the largest economic, academic and cultural city in southeast Poland. In tandem with the European Commission’s network of broadband competence offices (BCOs) and CBNL, the city of Rzeszów is using CBNL’s point-to-multipoint technology to make transformation improvements to key socioeconomic hubs across the city. Naylon said it does so through advanced use of 26 GHz, a frequency assigned as a pioneer band for 5G by the EU.
“The network results speak for themselves,” Naylon said. “Over 500 Wi-Fi hot spots offer broadband to underserved homes and economic areas; 187 schools and city buildings have superfast broadband of up to 200 Mbps; and over 650 fixed and 400 pan-tilt-zoom closed-circuit television and automatic number plate recognition cameras monitor public safety and traffic.”
Naylon said that Rzeszów’s smart city demonstrates pioneering use of 26 GHz and showcases how the latest millimeter wave technology can provide a highly cost-effective route to ubiquitous urban connectivity. He said that by creating high levels of spectrum reuse and adopting virtualization techniques, the project has been able to deliver a level of connectivity that was simply not possible using legacy techniques.
CBNL offers a video for additional detail: www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6-Hg6q78tU
When it comes to wireless infrastructure, Naylon said the carriers’ networks are already under severe strain from the sheer volume of 4G traffic. As a result, managing the super-high-capacity demands of 5G will require a wide-scale network evolution. Therefore, expanding network strategies to secure an early foothold in the 5G fixed wireless market looks set to become a key area of growth for many carriers, addressing a clear market opportunity and securing the essential revenue needed to realize their wider 5G ambitions, he said.
“It’s commonly accepted that fixed wireless access, both the enterprise and home, is a highly compelling use case for millimeter wave,” Naylon said. “However, the spectrum also provides a transformational opportunity to scale backhaul to the multi-gigabit capacities needed for 5G. At the heart of this evolution will be high-band spectrum, specifically between 26 GHz and 39 GHz, and a new wave of wireless technology that enables carriers to serve a range of exciting new verticals from a common network.”
In Naylon’s view, millimeter-wave point-to-multipoint technology has already gained significant pre-5G fixed wireless market traction. He said it is seeing adoption uptake in the 28-GHz bands, with similar movement in the 31-GHz and 39-GHz bands by developing new point-to-multipoint solutions in the bands, driven by the fact it is faster to deploy and costs up to half as much for a high-capacity link as competing point-to-point technology.
“As carriers define their 5G strategies, the first logical step will be to deploy ubiquitous millimeter wave coverage and create a multipurpose network that can virtualize traffic streams over the same physical infrastructure to serve wide-ranging issues, such as internet of things and vertical applications,” Naylon said. “This offers carriers an immediate opportunity to densify existing backhaul networks, while gaining an early foothold in the pre-5G fixed wireless market.”
The FCC will seek comment on making additional spectrum available in the 26 GHz and 42 GHz bands for flexible terrestrial wireless use in the third installment of its Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, which makes millimeter wave spectrum, in the bands at or above 24 GHz available for 5G and the Internet of Things.
“In our conversations with carriers and those that would like to enter the space, they have expressed a great demand for millimeter frequencies,” FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly told the audience during the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Connectivity Expo, yesterday, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We’re getting ready to auction high-band and push as much spectrum into the marketplace as possible.” O’Rielly said he is also working to make a swath of mid-band spectrum available for 5G or advanced 4G. He was interviewed by Kathleen Abernathy of Wilkinson Barker Knauer.
Opening up different bands requires that “you have greater harmonizing and tuning frequencies,” O’Rielly said in an interview with eDigest after his session. “That means opening up 26 GHz when 28 GHz is already available to create a wider swath of spectrum for providing services. In the millimeter wave bands we are going to need bigger chunks of spectrum to get the full capacity and provide the services that the carriers envision.”
FCC Can Pull Multiple Levers to Enable 5G
O’Rielly said he feels the weight of the important role the FCC plays in giving U.S. carriers the opportunity to deploy 5G. With that in mind, the Commission carefully goes about its decision making concerning spectrum and wireless regulation.
Different considerations go into making spectrum available for 5G, O’Rielly said. First, you need to find the appropriate bands that are lightly used for reallocation. Then the spectrum must be auctioned, and the timing of the auction is critical. It must be quick enough to allow the carriers to continue their deployment of infrastructure but not before the entities have raised the capital to bid on the frequencies.
“There is definitely a race to deploy 5G. I believe it is a global race. There are four or five countries that are trying to beat us to have full functioning 5G technology, because they know the benefits to GDP and jobs,” he said. “Our wireless carriers are doing a wonderful job of rushing ahead to deploy 5G, and we are well positioned to be successful.”
More Regulatory Reform on the Horizon
O’Rielly state and local jurisdictions are still acting in ways that impede the deployment of wireless infrastructure and therefore slowing the backbone of 5G.
“We should applaud the good communities that are forward leaning and want to see deployment,” he said. But there are also bad actors that are slowing the deployment of wireless infrastructure.
Among the bad actors, according to O’Rielly, are communities that act out of a desire to charge an inordinate amount of money for access to the right-of-way. He mentioned, for example, the jurisdiction that demanded $4,000 per small cell. He also blamed delays in deployment on municipalities that either lack of process or have inefficient processes.
The FCC must use its authority to remove regulatory impediments to the deployment and development of networks, O’Rielly said. He hopes the FCC will take action on removing state and local barriers to small cell deployment sometime this summer.
“We have tried to be nice, cajoling the states and municipalities to do the right thing. It hasn’t exactly worked in most cases. We have had increasing problems. There is only so much good will you can expend on one side of the equation,” he said. “Now we are going to go the aggressive route, getting bad actor communities out of the way.”
Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam said extensive testing has given the carrier confidence in the role of millimeter waves in its fixed 5G deployment during an interview with David Faber on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” last week.
“We had 11 markets up last year in testing with hundreds of cell sites proving that millimeter wave is an outstanding set of spectrum for this,” McAdam said. “So we have been plowing money into this within our capital budget for the last three years and we’re going to be commercial.”
The comments came in response to criticism by T-Mobile head John Legere, who claimed that the propagation of the millimeter band is so limited that Verizon would need an unsustainable number of antennas. McAdams said Verizon was disproving popular myths about millimeter wave and suggested that statements that an antenna must be with in 200 feet of a house might be driven by competitive jealousy.
“We tested for more than a year, so we could see every part of foliage, every storm that went through, and we have busted the myth that it has to be line of sight,” McAdams said. “We’re now designing the network for over 2,000 feet from transmitter to receiver, which has a huge impact on our capital need going forward.”
Verizon just added Los Angeles as its second fixed non-standalone 5G last week, McAdam announced on the CNBC show, joining Sacrament. By the end of the year the carrier is expected to have four markets using fixed non-standalone 5G. (Hint: Boston and Washington DC are two of its best markets)
“We’ll literally have more than 1,000 cell sites up and operating on the global [non-standalone] standard. We’ve got CPE [customer premise equipment] for fixed wireless applications in the intelligent home with home appliances and broadband, Alexa, Siri, and things like that,”
When mobile devices come available, Verizon plans to quickly move into a mobile environment. “The beauty of how we’re architecting our network is that it’s a multipurpose network,” McAdam said. “So, whether we offer fixed wireless or mobile or enterprise service, it doesn’t matter. That allows us to drive our costs down and serve more customers.”
McAdam said Verizon’s accumulate assets, including 36 million miles of fiber and spectrum from XO Communications and Straight Path Communications, allow it to offer “ultrawideband 5G.”
“So we will literally have hundreds of megahertz of bandwidth to deliver a full suite of services of 5G,” he said, “with improved latency and throughput and the literally thousands of times the capacity of 5G … for about 1/10thof what 4G costs today.”
Additionally, McAdams refuted recent reports that the United States trails China in 5G development.
“I can’t say where [China is] in their process, but this is a three-year journey for us,” he said. “We started with global standards. We worked with the other carriers around the world and the equipment suppliers, like Ericsson and Nokia and Samsung. And so I’m not sure what is not happening in the market, but I think China is working hard to stay with up us.”
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