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