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Forget the Hype About 5G, Wi-Fi 6 Is Already Here, Say Panelists at New America Event



WASINGTON, June 4, 2019 – Next generation Wi-Fi – sometimes called Wi-Fi 6 – will boast many of the capacities of the hype-driven 5G wireless standard, except that the capabilities of Wi-Fi 6 are already ready to deploy, said speakers at an event on Monday.

The event, entitled “Next Generation Wi-Fi: Accelerating 5G For All Americans,” was hosted by the New America’s Open Technology Institute.

Although some proponents of 5G question whether Wi-Fi will become obsolete with the rise of 5G networks, Broadcom Vice President Vijay Nagarajan said the answer to this was a “resounding no.” According to Nagarajan, the next generation of Wi-Fi will not just co-exist with 5G but actually be essential for its success.

Currently, approximately 80 percent of mobile traffic takes place over Wi-Fi. 5G will not necessarily change this figure; wireless data channels operating on higher frequencies will cover a smaller area, meaning that coverage will not be seamless without an extremely high cost.

Nagarajan’s answer to this is Wi-Fi 6 in every building, providing a cost-effective cover for cellular 5G deployments.

“5G is a wonderful technology, but [it’s] predominantly outdoor tech and Wi-Fi is predominately indoor,” explained Comcast Vice President David Don. Cellular devices all connect to subscription-based mobile carriers, of which there are many, but Wi-Fi connects to a neutral host, so anyone with the password can use the network.

Without Wi-Fi, every interior space would require a 5G connection for every single carrier, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

5G is expected to provide high data rates, IoT support, low latency, fixed wireless access, high mobility, and spectrum efficiency. Wi-Fi 6 will provide these same benefits: High speed, low latency, more coverage, higher capacity, and power efficiency. According to Nagarajan, cellular 5G and Wi-Fi are “complementary to each other in offering these services seamlessly.”

Many of the speakers focused on the potential to open up the 6 Gigahertz (GHz) band for unlicensed spectrum, which would add seven 160 Megahertz (MHz) channels. The current unlicensed spectrum is inadequate because there are already nine billion devices to Wi-Fi, and this number is expected to grow exponentially.

“In order to compete and provide low cost service to the people who need it most, we need unlicensed access,” said Wireless Internet Service Providers Association Vice President Christina Mason.

Opening up 6 GHz will double the bandwidth and throughput, give higher speeds over wider areas, and have the potential to be deployed in both dense areas and single-family homes. Nagarajan called it a “Wi-Fi superhighway” that would be critical to carrying traffic from 5G cellular networks.

FCC Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel both spoke on the panel, providing a bipartisan show of support for opening up additional spectrum. While Rosenworcel was very optimistic about the future of Wi-Fi 6, O’Rielly was more cautious, pointing out that the schedule will be decided by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

The main issue with opening up 6 GHz to unlicensed spectrum is that the band is currently populated with incumbents who worry about the interference risk. Rosenworcel pointed out that the 3.5 GHz band currently accommodates military data, licensed commercial use, and unlicensed use for Wi-Fi. This model could be exported to other bands.

She also emphasized the fact that Congress specifically directed the FCC to find 100 megahertz for use within the next few years, meaning that they are actively looking for solutions.

Susan Bearden, the Chief Innovation Officer for the Consortium for School Networking, spoke about the potential importance of Wi-Fi 6 in education, emphasizing the importance of “going the last mile.”

Schools are dependent on Wi-Fi, both for educational purposes such as streaming and downloading instructional materials and for security purposes like video cameras and other high impact network devices. Students should not have to choose between the quality of their education and their safety, Bearden said.

Wi-Fi 6 will also have a significant impact on libraries. In areas where many individuals lack internet access from their homes, libraries are key for online learning and job training.

These are more likely to be supported by Wi-Fi than by 5G, given the high cost of necessary network infrastructure combined with the low density of people in certain rural communities, creating a low return on investment for carriers.

Mason said that these carriers were “overselling their commitment to deploy,” particularly for areas that still don’t even have 4G coverage. Even if carriers do offer 5G connectivity, it might still be cost-prohibitive for many. Wi-Fi 6, she said, could fill that gap.

(Photo of Broadcom Vice President Vijay Nagarajan by Emily McPhie.)

Reporter Em McPhie studied communication design and writing at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was a managing editor for the student newspaper. In addition to agency and freelance marketing experience, she has reported extensively on Section 230, big tech, and rural broadband access. She is a founding board member of Code Open Sesame, an organization that teaches computer programming skills to underprivileged children.


Crown Castle CEO Says 5G Plus Fixed Wireless Can Rival Fiber Connections

Experts say that 5G increases fixed wireless speed to be a competitor to wired networks.



Photo of Jay Brown, CEO of Crown Castle from Alter.

NEW ORLEANS, May 11, 2023 – Fifth generation mobile networks has enabled fixed wireless technology to be deployed in areas where it wouldn’t have been accepted otherwise, said Jay Brown, CEO of communications infrastructure company Crown Castle at a Connect (X) forum here on Wednesday.

Fixed wireless will never be a true replacement for a wired network, said Brown, but providers have been successful thus far because running 5G on a fixed wireless network brings speeds up to par with wired connections. “The speeds you get on a fixed wireless network [with 5G] are matching that of the wired solution,” he said.

We’ve seen that if given a choice, consumers will choose wireless over a wired connection, Brown continued, speaking at the Wireless Infrastructure Association trade show. Providers have noted an increase in demand for small cell towers that transmit wireless over a high frequency in a small geographic area, he claimed.

For many communities, managing aesthetic is singularly important and this desire fuels the deployment of small cells, he said.

Due to the faster speeds that 5G enables, providers are seeing deployment in areas that would not have accepted it otherwise due to its lower speeds, added Steve Vondran of American Tower, provider of wireless communications infrastructure..

This allows providers to enter previously untapped networks and connect people across rough terrain and in rural areas, he said.

“Fixed wireless is driving incremental returns but this is just the first application [of 5G],” said Brown. Our use cases haven’t evolved to utilize the full capacity of 5G, agreed Vondran.

Spectrum concerns

However, for wireless providers, spectrum allocations are a continuous concern. The Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority which allows it to auction spectrum for private use expired in March.

Vondran suggested that the government will need to work with the Department of Defense which holds a significant amount of spectrum to make more available privately.

“If the demand drivers are as predicted, we will need more spectrum made available,” said Jeff Stoops, CEO of SBA Communications.

Until more spectrum is released, industry leaders expect that spectrum shortages will lead to great densification of the networks, the process of increasing small cell towers in an area to address growing demand.

Leaders of the FCC urged lawmakers in a letter dated in April to extend the agency’s spectrum authority amid demands for more across the industry.

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T-Mobile Reiterates Need for FCC Spectrum Auction Authority, Touts 5G for Home Internet

T-Mobile touted the strength of its 5G wireless network for home internet.



Photo of T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert

April 27, 2023 – T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert urged Congress Thursday to restore the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority amid the pure play wireless company’s goal of expanding its 5G network and driving down customer defections by showing Americans the quality of that network.

“Does this wireless industry have enough spectrum over the long-haul for American competitiveness? I’d say, never,” Sievert said on the company’s first quarter earnings conference call, noting the FCC lost its spectrum auction authority in March. T-Mobile has previously urged Congress to extend the auction authority.

“I think that it’s very important we get back on track with this and that auctions that are completed get put to use for the American consumer because there’s work that’s pending there and that the FCC regains its authority quickly to be able to lead in this space going forward the way they have done so well in the past.

“I think that’s very important for our company, for our competitors, but also for American competitiveness.”

The wireless company is banking on more spectrum so that it can continue its 5G expansion, which Sievert said is a key driver of its appeal.

Three years ago this month, the company closed its acquisition of Sprint. Since then, Sievert said the company has been on a journey to prove the value of its 5G-focused network for not just mobile wireless, but high-speed internet.

“We’re at a fascinating, historical moment in the history of our company,” Sievert said. “If you think about it, we have spent six years on the chapter of our company comprised of dreaming about and then completing and then integrating the merger that would allow us to leapfrog AT&T and Verizon from being last place in the LTE era to first place in the 5G era.

“And now we’ve generally gotten that done — we have the best network in the country, we have the best values, and we’ve generally completed that merger, and so now we have work to do to convince the American public that it’s true.”

Part of that 5G sell is the home internet capabilities. The company said 3.2 million T-Mobile customers are running their home internet over the 5G wireless network, with hundreds of gigabytes per month being consumed on it in the top 100 markets in the country. Home internet is what T-Mobile is calling a “big killer” application for 5G.

The industry has already heard about the value of fixed-wireless access. Verizon said this week that it is banking on the C-band spectrum to drive that segment beyond two million connections. Meanwhile, AT&T has said fixed-wireless isn’t a product that it is looking to heavily invest in as it targets more fiber connectivity.

T-Mobile executives noted that 5G in some rural areas is the first high-speed option that existed for them. The company covers 326 million people with its 5G network.

For the three months that ended March 31, and compared to the same period last year, the company added 523,000 net new customers on its high-speed internet option, 185,000 more than the year prior.

It added 1.32 million new postpaid wireless customers, lower than the 1.38 it added last year. That was attributed to “continued normalization of industry growth.”

Churn, the measure of the rate at which customers leave the company, was down to 0.89 percent compared to the 0.93 percent it endured in the same quarter last year. Total postpaid and prepaid customers at the end of the quarter sat at 114.9 million compared to 109.5 million in the same quarter last year.

Overall, it reported a 2.4 percent decline in revenues to $19.6 billion, but service revenues were up 3 percent year-over-year to $15.5 billion attributed partly to higher postpaid service revenue. Net income was up 172 percent to $1.9 billion attributed to lower merger-related costs.

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Innovation Fund’s Global Approach May Improve O-RAN Deployment: Commenters

The $1.5 billion Innovation Fund should be used to promote global adoption, say commenters.



Illustration about intelligent edge computing from Deloitte Insights

WASHINGTON, February 2, 2023 – A global approach to funding open radio access networks will improve its success in the United States, say commenters to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The NTIA is seeking comment on how to implement the $1.5 billion appropriated to the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund as directed by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. The grant program is primarily responsible for supporting the promotion and deployment of open, interoperable, and standards-based radio access networks. 

Radio access networks provide critical technology to connect users to the mobile network over radio waves. O-RAN would create a more open ecosystem of network equipment that would otherwise be reliant on proprietary technology from a handful of companies.  

Global RAN

Commenters to the NTIA argue that in order for O-RAN to be successful, it must be global. The Administration must take a “global approach” when funding projects by awarding money to those companies that are non-U.S.-based, said mobile provider Verizon in its comments.  

To date, new entrants into the RAN market have been the center for O-RAN development, claimed wireless service provider, US Cellular. The company encouraged the NTIA to “invest in proven RAN vendors from allied nations, rather than focusing its efforts on new entrants and smaller players that lack operational expertise and experience.” 

Korean-based Samsung Electrontics added that by allowing trusted entities with a significant U.S. presence to compete for project funding and partner on those projects, the NTIA will support standardizing interoperability “evolution by advancing a diverse global market of trusted suppliers in the U.S.” 

O-RAN must be globally standardized and globally interoperable, Verizon said. Funding from the Public Wireless Innovation Fund will help the RAN ecosystem mature as it desperately needs, it added.  

Research and development

O-RAN continues to lack the maturity that is needed for commercial deployment, agreed US Cellular in its comments. The company indicated that the complexity and costliness of system integration results from there being multiple vendors that would need to integrate but are not ready for full integration. 

Additionally, interoperability with existing RAN infrastructure requires bi-lateral agreements, customized integration, and significant testing prior to deployment, the comment read. The complicated process would result in O-RAN increasing the cost of vendor and infrastructure deployment, claimed US Cellular, directly contrary to the goals of O-RAN. 

Several commenters urged the NTIA to focus funding projects on research and development rather than subsidizing commercial deployments.  

The NTIA is already fully engaged in broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas through its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, said Verizon. The Innovation Fund will better advance its goals by funding projects that accelerate the solving of remaining O-RAN technical challenges that continue to delay its deployment, it continued. 

US Cellular argued that the NTIA should “spur deployment of additional independent testing and certification lab facilities… where an independent third party can perform end to end testing, conformance, and certification.” 

The Innovation Fund should be used to focus on technology development and solving practical challenges, added wireless trade association, CTIA. Research can focus on interoperability, promotion of equipment that meets O-RAN specifications, and projects that support hardware design and energy efficiency, it said. 

Furthermore, CTIA recommended that the Administration avoid interfering in how providers design their networks to encourage providers to adopt O-RAN in an appropriate manner for their company. Allowing a flexible, risk-based approach to O-RAN deployments will “help ensure network security and stability,” it wrote. 

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