Home / Blogs

Is 5G a Race We Want to Win?

There is an interesting article recently published in the English version of a South Korean newspaper, the ChosunILBO, that talks about 5G in China. According to the article, the Chinese 5G rollout is an expensive bust.

There are a number of interesting facts disclosed about the Chinese 5G rollout. First, it's clear that the rollout is using millimeter wave spectrum. The article says that the 5G towers in the Chinese networks are being installed about 200 meters apart (600 feet) since the signal from each transmitter travels between 100 and 300 meters. That's consistent with millimeter-wave hot spots being deployed in downtown cities by Verizon.

It takes a huge number of millimeter-wave cell sites to cover a city, and the article says that by the end of June 2020, the Chinese had installed 410,000 cell sites. The article estimates that to get the same coverage as today's 4G, the network would eventually need over 10 million cell sites. The article quotes Xiang Ligang, the director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a Chinese telecom industry association, who said the plans are to build one million new cell sites in each of the next three years.

The 5G coverage isn't seeing wide acceptance. The article cites a recent Chinese survey where over 73% of the public says there is no need to buy 5G phones. This matched the findings from another survey that also said the public saw no need for 5G.

One of the more interesting things cited in the article is that the 5G cell sites use a lot of energy and that starting in August, China Unicom has taken to shutting the cell sites down from 9 PM until 9 AM daily to save on electricity costs. They say each cell site is using triple the power of a 4G cell site, and there are a lot of sites to power. The new 5G specifications include a provision to significantly reduce power consumption for 5G cell sites, but in the early days of deployment, it looks like this has gone in the wrong direction.

The article concludes that the Chinese 5G experiment might end up as an economic bust. What's interesting about this article is that a lot of the same things can be said about 5G in South Korea. It's been reported that South Korea has the most significant percentage penetration of 5G handsets, but that the public has mostly been panning the service.

None of this is surprising. The 5G deployment using millimeter wave spectrum is an outdoor technology and can only be brought indoors by installing numerous 5G transmitters inside a building since the spectrum won't pass through walls. There is no doubt that the millimeter-wave signals are fast, but as has been demonstrated here, the reception of signal is squirrely. Apparently, bandwidth comes and goes by a simple twist of the hand, and the user's body can block the millimeter-wave signals. Add that to the inability to continue with a connection when walking into a building or around the corner of a building, and the millimeter-wave product doesn't sound particularly user friendly.

The outdoor product possibly makes sense in places where people stay and work outside, such as public markets. But it's not an inviting technology for people who are only outside to go between buildings or to commute.

There are no indications that Verizon intends to deploy the product widely in the US, or at least not in the same manner that would cover a city in cell sites every 600 feet.

There has been a huge amount of hype in this country about being in a race with the Chinese over the deployment of 5G. But after seeing articles like this, perhaps our best strategy is to lay back and wait until 5G equipment gets cheaper and until the new 5G cell sites are made energy efficient. For now, it doesn't sound like a race we want to win.

By Doug Dawson, President at CCG Consulting – Dawson has worked in the telecom industry since 1978 and has both a consulting and operational background. He and CCG specialize in helping clients launch new broadband markets, develop new products, and finance new ventures. Visit Page

CircleID Newsletter The Weekly Wrap

More and more professionals are choosing to publish critical posts on CircleID from all corners of the Internet industry. If you find it hard to keep up daily, consider subscribing to our weekly digest. We will provide you a convenient summary report once a week sent directly to your inbox. It's a quick and easy read.

I make a point of reading CircleID. There is no getting around the utility of knowing what thoughtful people are thinking and saying about our industry.

VINTON CERF
Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet

Comments

5G: Reality v. Hype By John Poole  –  Nov 03, 2020 6:31 pm PST

Many thanks for an informative article re: 5G, giving a sober analysis of the experience to date in China and elsewhere vs. the hype.

Add Your Comments

 To post your comments, please login or create an account.

Related

Topics

Brand Protection

Sponsored byAppdetex

IP Addressing

Sponsored byIPv4.Global

Domain Names

Sponsored byVerisign

DNS Security

Sponsored byAfilias

Whois

Sponsored byWhoisXML API

Cybersecurity

Sponsored byVerisign

Cybercrime

Sponsored byThreat Intelligence Platform

New TLDs

Sponsored byAfilias