The 5G Wireline Density Dependency

Increases in the wireline infrastructure represent a key dependency for Radio Access Network deployments in 5G.  This kind of precursor dependency may translate into invest-able opportunities that will front run the 5G hype cycle.   

Much of this new fiber deployment will be centralized–not to large access towers but instead to small cells, microcells, picocells, and even in some cases to user-deployed femtocells where fiber connections already exist via fiber feed to coaxial cable. 

Existing fiber infrastructure will need to be made denser to accommodate both increased bandwidth requirements and also decreased wireless transmission range constraints of the 5G Radio Access Network (RAN).  Increased wireline density would not be required in local area or point-to-point 5G deployments.    

Infrastructure companies, fiber manufacturers, and electronics companies that produce intermediary equipment may be the first to enjoy the financial benefits of 5G’s next industrial revolution.

Copyright Warren Pollock 2/12/2019 Edited by Mike Botwin

Huawei – Stealing the Special Sauce?

It’s much cheaper to steal intellectual property than it is to develop it. Huawei, as an extension of the Chinese Communist Party and its institutions, intends to dominate the worldwide market for 5G networking, equipment, and peripherals by socializing (stealing) the “special sauce” of American and European Intellectual Property (IP). It’s much cheaper still to produce networking equipment and components with government subsidies and/or in sweatshops that arbitrage away the cost of best practices in labor-employment and environmental standards.

Second-tier, rural, and regional telecom companies in the United States want to do business with Huawei because the equipment can be obtained for less money. These companies are financially motivated to ignore the provenance of stolen intellectual property.

Nations too are seeking to save money through the implementation of telecommunications technology from Huawei–technology which may have backdoors and thus may be insecure. 5G security will be an absolute imperative because human life, infrastructure systems, and daily commerce will be totally dependent upon the technology.

Security in 5G devices has to be assured not only in the whole networking device but also in software and at the component level. Socialism with Chinese characteristics must not find its way into the world’s telecommunications infrastructure.

Home in the Cocoon

In its earnings conference call presentation on January 29th, Verizon indicated that the equipment needed to roll out 5G home in scale was not yet available.  Elements of infrastructure and architecture might be in place as a precursor to product rollout but I would posit that the end product itself is currently cocooned in a limited pilot stage deployment.     

To add icing to the cake of irony, a myopically focused “analyst” from a major financial institution asked: “When will the cell phones be ready?”  The answer from Verizon was that Motorola and Samsung were in the process of developing the phones and only one of the two has actually been seen in its physical form.  For the real answer:  Can you hear me now?  5G IS NOT A CELL PHONE-CENTRIC TECHNOLOGY!!!!!  

The takeaway for investors is that 5G will have a long timeline to market.  Being a strategically large project, many physical components have to be in place far in advance in order for 5G technology to become useful and eventually ubiquitous.  It will not be cost-effective or reasonable to expect this technology to be deployed to service low-density populations.     

Point-to-point 5G for the home in cities and suburbs, and private Broadband Wireless for enterprise-specific or task-specific networks will reach the marketplace in sync with one another. As Verizon looks to deploy point-to-point to the home to improve cost efficiencies, Volkswagen, BASF, Daimler, Bosch, and Siemens are expected to apply for regional licenses from German regulators which in turn will enable them to develop to new industrial use cases specific to their needs.        

Perhaps equipment and fiber first with the carrier networks to follow might be an investment thesis to consider.  I wonder what will happen when near-term expectations from investors and consumers regarding 5G are not met. 

Copyright Warren Pollock 1/30/2019 Edited by Mike Botwin

5G’s Grok-Block

There is little grounding in today’s consumer experience to provide people with a reference point in understanding how 5G will redefine society in profound ways across all areas of technology and life.  Instead of providing a bridge to understanding something new and unseen, today’s media speaks erroneously using the terminology of today and in a dissonant manner by suggesting that the primary use of 5G will be a faster cell phone technology to be deployed sometime next year.  The New York Times may have realized its lack of depth in regards to 5G because it has an open advertisement for “…a forward-looking leader to help envision, build, and oversee a new team that will discover how emerging 5G technology can shape the way we do journalism.”  Either this blog is early or the New York Times is late!

5G can be “discovered” by developing use cases based on technical elements and jargon which in and of themselves are hard to understand.  This blog attempts to describe the business relevance of the near future of 5G, rather than its’ technical details.
As a bridge, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg mentions eight currencies of 5G–broad elements which will eventually be combined via the alchemy of technical implementors and visionaries into products and services that don’t exist today.  To the consumer, these currencies are nice things to know but hold little or no meaning.  Vesterberg’s Eight Currencies of 5G are profound in their importance: 

-Speed with peak data rates of up to 10 Gbps;
-Throughput with data volumes up to 10 Terabits per second per square kilometer;
-Mobility with devices potentially staying connected while moving up to 500 kilometers per hour;
-Device density support up to 1 million devices per square kilometer;
-Energy efficiency devices and in-network infrastructure;
-Rapid service deployment;
-Five-millisecond end-to-end latency;
-99.999% reliability.

To visionaries, developers, entrepreneurs, venture capital firms, corporations, investors, and nation-states these currencies will be worth trillions of dollars.  It’s clear that the consumer and the media do not have an understanding of 5g’s importance; the US and Chinese governments understand very well the strategic imperative and importance of this technology.  I would go so far as to say that 5G will further bifurcate those who have and those who have not; those countries and people that will have prospects and those that won’t.

Copyright Warren Pollock 1/27/2019 Edited by Mike Botwin

5G Off-boarding CPU’s/GPU’s to the Cloud?

It’s very likely that 5G has the network capacity to offboard processing power to the cloud for use in on-demand computations and graphics.  Processing capacity and arrays would be located either centrally or at the edge of the network.  The “Network of Things” would pull parallel resources (computational, database, network) as needed and in relation to application requirements and/or budget. 

For the consumer, the computer, cell phone, and television would effectively merge into a single “terminal” type of device.  In today’s terms, a 5G signal would replace the interface-cable used for High-Definition Multimedia with the GPU located away from the screen (input-output device).  Remote GPU’s would then provide the processing power for 8K video streaming or thereafter for interactive applications that require collaborative or relational processing such as gaming.   

For enterprise level businesses, deployment of technology becomes more standardized and thus more controllable and manageable.  Businesses of every size will have the opportunity to create applications for consumption to new and dynamic network architecture.   

End users and consumers will be presented with ethereal products streamed to simple hardware with the complexity sitting behind or built into the network.

Copyright Warren Pollock 1/22/2019 edited by Mike Botwin

Electrocuting the 5G Elephant

A cacophony of experts has been spreading the word that 5G will subject us all to the hidden dangers of millimeter waves flying unseen through the air in every which way and in all directions.  In the good old days “doing by demonstrating” was the best way to get one’s point across, thus in 1903 Edison electrocuted Topsy the elephant with alternating current, a feat which would have been more difficult to achieve with “his” direct current technology.      

What would life be like today without AC electricity, automobiles, subways, airplanes?  Tradeoffs in safety and health have always been evident in every technology from transportation to medicine. 

5G may actually improve the cost-benefit equation for cell phones, transportation, and medicine.  The power used to transmit a 5G signal from phone to cell will not only be far less than current technologies, but it will also be directed through the process of beamforming.  Millimeter waves don’t penetrate very far through objects and also tend to cancel each other out.  This means that low power, long battery life devices, will connect to small nearby cells using several antennas (MIMO) and directed signals (Beamforming).  5G towers will not be broadcasting random high power signals in every and all direction; phones will not be blasting out more radiation in your direction.   

In the United States, there are millions of car crashes every year with tens of thousands of people killed.  Self-driving cars directed by millimeter wave will mitigate the risk to life, person, and property.  5G technology will go further by adding the possibility of robots and drones to operate safely and in proximity to people.  This kind of benefit would not be available otherwise.  

As low hanging fruit, 5G will usher in medical innovations in directed surgery whereby virtual representations of the surgical targets will be melded and/or fused (eg fusion biopsies) with the patients body in realtime, resulting in more effective treatments, less risk to the patient, and far better outcomes.

5G will not be a cell phone-centric technology; it will be used in local area deployments, in directed point-to-point beams in such a way as to replace fiber optics or ethernet cable, and in totally new types of innovative applications.   

Will 5G have an offsetting risk and/or a health cost?  The answer would probably be yes.  The same can be said about plastics, internal combustion, electricity, aibags, and every technology we use and rely upon today.  Will 5G improve our lives in ways that will far outweigh the hidden costs of this new technology?  That answer would be yes as well.

Copyright Warren Pollock 1/17/2019 Edited by Mike Botwin

5G Slicing to New Profit Centers

The architecture of 5G will allow telecommunications companies to virtualize network resources and software blocks which will create new business and profit center opportunities as future use cases develop.  Telecommunications providers that recognize the power of software and network virtualization will be able to transition from the limitations of a highly commoditized business model towards the marketing of bespoke yet modular value-added services. 

The services that the telecommunications companies initially will be able to sell will be a function of geographic network reach and eventually the result of convergence of code blocks, cloud services, network infrastructure and bandwidth.

Like Application Program Interfaces, the modular nature of 5G building blocks (software/service/network) will simplify and standardize the development of network-centric applications.   A telecommunications vendor could provision building blocks based on business need that could be arranged by a business user without having to know the technical details that operate behind the curtain of the network itself, e.g:    

“Deliver package from network node x to network node y taking the least expensive route within one day.”    

In the network-centric world of 5G, elements of robotics could be offloaded from the mechanical platform to the network itself.   A simple addressable bus accessible by a 5G signal could replace the need to have onboard microcontroller systems, electronic controls, software, and an expensive or dense sensor suite.  The robot would be a shell containing a 5G communications adapter, driving mechanisms, power supply, and motors-actuators.  The software “brain” of the robot(s) would be located elsewhere and would be a shared network resource. 

Network resources could be allocated based on the density of robotics in geographic space or the complexity of the task in sum or in part.  Resources could even be applied as a billable service based on budgetary requirements or constraints. 

It’s quite obvious that companies which heed the words, “Build the network and they will come” may be able to capture the billing opportunity of a lifetime.

Copyright Warren Pollock 1/14/2019 edited by Mike Botwin

Skyward to the Network of Things

During her CES 2019 Keynote address, Maria Scott, the CEO of Skyward (Verizon’s commercial drone subsidiary), provided critical insight into how the 5G network topology will evolve not only to drones but also a wider suite of devices and applications.  5G technology has the potential as described to create synergies between people and devices to such an extent that it’s likely that this technology will evolve from the “Internet of Things” to a much broader “Network of Things.”

In her futuristic commercial drone use case, Scott described a software-overview where edge computers would orchestrate control and coordinate the activities and flight paths of densely packed drones both in 3D space and in real-time.  With 5G’s low latency, a very sophisticated edge application would allow drones to operate as a coordinated group of thin-clients or network nodes.     

The most important implication of Scott’s vision was that the same 5G network topology she described also applies to other many other potential 5G use cases such as self-driving vehicles, robotics, financial transactions, delivery, and telemetry.  For example, local 5G networks will employ edge applications to track warehouse inventory and control robotics thus using the same topology that Scott described in her overview. 

A differentiation exists between today’s world where simple devices connect through a network and the future where centralized edge network applications will direct and coordinate devices as part of the entire network working in synergy.  The next industrial revolution is one where edge network applications connect and control “thin” network clients over 5G wireless signals.    

Strategically, the business foundation for the future of this new industrial revolution resides in the build out of dense and centralized fiber networks which then will lead into tributaries of small cells that tether control, and mesh “simple” end nodes such as drones to an applications overview.  The vision of 5G requires visionaries such as Maria Scott who have clarity of overview into what will prove to be a rich use-case driven future. 

Copyright Warren Pollock edited by Mike Botwin

A Tale of Two Fiber Maps

Verizon Small Cell

Having design-managed private networks and technology for large and mission-critical businesses, my perception is that neither AT&T nor Verizon currently has a fiber infrastructure that can support 5G as a “cell phone technology” let alone as ultimately envisioned.  The more salient question, therefore, might be which company, if any, has the advantage in transitioning to 5G.  

According to is own literature, Verizon has fiber end runs to tens of millions of residential customers in a few highly dense cities and regions.  AT&T, on the other hand, reports that it holds the 5G advantage due to existing “private-line” fiber runs to thousands of business buildings along with hub-based internet delivery to dense residential apartment buildings.     

I don’t think either company has an advantage in provisioning 5G cell phone service to customers in scale.  This perception is evidenced by the fact that 5G will initially be rolled out as a point-to-point network for home delivery services and thereafter as a local area network to support robotics or other edge computing applications.  

Point-of-sale would be an example of an edge computing application (previous article); robotics with a central hub-based processor rather than distributed onboard processing would be another application.    

Five years from now (or more), hub-based processing could replace the need for expensive CPUs and sensor suites in autonomous vehicles.  Small cells could compute the position of each car without the need for sensors in the road.  Cell phone service would “ride” 5G infrastructure where it exists. 

5G infrastructure should not, will not, and does not have to be rolled out to every square inch of the country to support cell phone service.  This brings us back to the initial question; which company has the advantage in transitioning to 5G?  The answer depends on how 5G gets defined beyond the false perception that it is a cell phone technology.

Copyright Warren Pollock 1/6/2019 edited by Mike Botwin

ATT’s 5G “Evolutionary Path”


Verizon has demonstrated it has an overview and understanding of its own 5G business strategy. AT&T, on the other hand, has described its 5G implementation strategy as an “Evolutionary Path.” AT&T seems to be employing a business strategy that seeks to extend and leverage the features of existing technologies into the 5G framework of standards now under development.  Does the path taken really matter?

ATT Smart City

Will an “Evolutionary Path” result in greater efficiencies or utility? 1) Leveraging existing infrastructure and taking fuller advantage of the existing LTE feature set does not cost very much to accomplish and therefore could be business efficient. 2) Cell phone “power users,” and/or shared venues via hot-spots, would conceivably have access to greater potential speed subject to cost and availability constraints. But, do cell phones and laptops really need more speed? For most people, the answer would be no. 3) It would be easier in theory for a large corporation to follow a standards-based approach rather than a proprietary one. 4) Following a gradual (pragmatic, risk averse) path may reduce the need to allocate.dedicate large amounts of capital until such time as standards are refined and use cases are developed. (As an example, what did a car look like before it was defined in final form? Were the early car manufacturers punished or rewarded?) 6) Perhaps, and most of all, the “Evolutionary Path” helps to form a market perception that ATT will lead into the future of 5G technology.

Will an “Evolutionary Path” result in greater efficiencies or utility? 1) Leveraging existing infrastructure and taking fuller advantage of the existing LTE feature set does not cost very much to accomplish and therefore could be business efficient. 2) Cell phone “power users,” and/or shared venues via hot-spots, would conceivably have access to greater potential speed subject to cost and availability constraints. But, do cell phones and laptops really need more speed? For most people, the answer would be no. 3) It would be easier in theory for a large corporation to follow a standards-based approach rather than a proprietary one. 4) Following a gradual (pragmatic, risk averse) path may reduce the need to dedicate large amounts of capital until such time as standards are refined and use cases are developed. (As an example, what did a car look like before it was defined in final form? Were the early car manufacturers punished or rewarded?) 6) Perhaps, and most of all, the “Evolutionary Path” helps to form a market perception that AT&T will lead into the future of 5G technology.

Philosophically, is the prize of capturing the high ground on a “Future Industrial Revolution” incremental in nature or revolutionary? Could an incremental approach scale and grow in time to compete with more aggressively focused corporate competitors or even national imperatives?

Unlike Verizon, does AT&T have immediate low hanging 5G fruit from Fixed Wireless? The answer would be no. Will AT&T’s dedication to its media business plan deprive it of the financial depth necessary for the long-term opportunity that 5G represents?

I think the 5G evolutionary “path” to the future matters; it matters more than adherence to technical details and standards, it matters more than faster cell phones. The economic benefit of owning the deployed infrastructure necessary to serve the many use cases of our 5G future does not reside at the end of every path. These are the make or break questions that boardrooms will decide.

Philosophically, is the prize of capturing the high ground on a “Future Industrial Revolution” incremental in nature or revolutionary? Could an incremental approach scale and grow in time to compete with more aggressively focused corporate competitors or even national imperatives?

Unlike Verizon, does AT&T have immediate low hanging 5G fruit from Fixed Wireless? The answer would be no. Will AT&T’s dedication to its media business plan deprive it of the financial depth necessary for the long-term opportunity that 5G represents?

I think the 5G evolutionary “path” to the future matters; it matters more than adherence to technical details and standards, it matters more than faster cell phones. The economic benefit of owning the deployed infrastructure necessary to serve the many use cases of our 5G future does not reside at the end of every path. These are the make or break questions that boardrooms will decide.

copyright W. Pollock 12/19/2018 w@wepollock.com edited by Mike Botwin