5G Connectivity for the Columbia River & Coast
This paper overviews an approach to make wireless broadband affordable along the Columbia River and along the Oregon Coast (Executive summary and Power Point). Let’s lay down a little soundtrack (just for fun).
This paper considers the impact of 5G wireless. 5G wireless on the 3.5 GHz band is expected to save the $500-$1000 cost per home of installing fiber, save the cost of buying spectrum, and reduce infrastructure costs by enabling one (inexpensive) radio to deliver LTE mobile broadband for multiple carriers, as well as municipalities and businesses.
Today’s 4G networks cost carriers about $1 to deliver a gigabyte of data, according former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler. With 5G, the same $1 might deliver 20 gigs or 200 gigs for a cost of $10/month. Subscribers will soon be able to seamlessly move between their carriers’ cellular network and LTE-Unlicensed or MuLTEfire – using the shared 3.5 GHz band – and not really know the difference.
We assert that 5G will deliver 10-100 Mbps broadband for 1/10th the cost. Several innovations make it possible:
(1) 150 Mhz of bandwidth at 3.5 GHz. That’s more spectrum than the total available through Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile.
(2) The 3.5 Band is free. Like Wifi. It can be shared by both carriers or businesses. That saves billions.
(3) Shared commodity radios. Antennas, radios and backhaul are shared with “open” LTE standards and supported by many vendors.
(4) Public infrastructure can be utilized. Watertower and light pole attachment in exchange for bandwidth. Shared cells indoors & out.
(5) Non-profit neutral host. Different providers can use the network. Expensive dedicated and duplicated radios not required.
(6) Government funding. The FCC now defines broadband as 25 Mbps. Wireless at 3.5 GHz delivers it.
The FCC has authorized fixed and mobile wireless in the 3.5 GHz Band. It uses shared radios and (free) spectrum. It promises fiber speeds without the cost. It will stimulate local economies. It’s disruptive. Transformative. It’s going to happen.
In addition, the “free” 3.5 GHz spectrum compliments the licensed 2.5 GHz spectrum, sharing the same Time Division LTE technology and infrastructure. The FCC’s Report and Order: Transforming the 2.5 GHz Band and News Release have the latest 2.5 GHz auction news. Midcontinent Communications, which runs operations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Wisconsin state, “40MHz on 2.5 GHz would allow us to offer speeds of over 230/25 Mbps about 4 miles away for near line-of-sight customers, 100/20 Mbps about 8 miles, and areas all the way up to 18 miles away where we could still offer 25/3 Mbps, low latency service.
According to Intel, 5G is about fixed and mobile broadband, IoT, connected vehicles, shared spectrum, cloud apps. Faster and Cheaper. A carrier-neutral network, operated by a third party, may deliver a better solution for all stakeholders; carriers, regulators, and consumers.
Companies like Boingo Wireless acquire long-term wireless rights in large venues like airports, military bases, stadiums, multifamily and universities; builds DAS, Wi-Fi, and small cell networks to serve those areas in a carrier neutral manner; and monetizes those networks through advertising, carrier fees, or user charges.
FiberNets in Oregon
Fiber networks in Oregon are spotty along the Columbia River and Oregon Coast with Oregon Broadband in 2016 concentrated in urban areas. Current 4G coverage along the Columbia is poor, especially below Longview, where Interstate 5 and the Columbia River diverge.
Wave Broadband, a gigabit fiber and broadband services company, acquired two fiber-optic broadband companies: CoastCom, a Newport, OR-based company connects coastal Oregon and Central Oregon with fiber optic connections, and Vancouver, WA-based SawNet, a broadband services provider in the Columbia Gorge.
There have been a number of municipal fiber systems in Oregon. These include:
– Ashland Fiber Network has approximately 6,000 customers across its product lines and is a pioneer in municipal fiber.
– Eastern Oregon Telecom provides up to Gigabit fiber to some 14,000 people, in Hermiston and surrounding areas.
– The City of Independence has municipally-owned fiber to the home. Called MINET, it has been in operation for eight years.
– SandyNet delivers 100 Mbps for $40/month. SandyNet runs their Fiber To The Home on a break-even basis.
– The City of Eugene is building a publicly owned fiber network that will connect about 120 downtown Eugene buildings. XS Media provides TV, Phone, and Internet services.
Google’s fiber plan for Portland was estimated to cost as much as $300 million and concentrate on urban areas. Only 42% of U.S. broadband users connect at speeds above 15 Mbps with Google’s 100 Mbps wireless service likely competitive with Comcast’s 75 Mbps service which costs $50-$60/month.
CenturyLink Fiber costs $109 a month in Portland for the first year (if you can get it) with their ‘standard’ gigabit cost $153.95, according to one user. You must be within 500 ft of a passive optical splitter. Comcast will offer Gigabit service in Portland for about the same price.
Freewire Broadband an Oregon-owned and managed company is one of the largest fixed wireless broadband providers in the Northwest. Portand’s FiberFi uses multiple access Mimosa 5 GHz wireless gear from their hub at the Pittock Building downtown.
Mimosa, for all its strengths, is not mobile broadband. It’s not LTE or WiFi compatible and is susceptible to interference on the unlicensed 5 GHz band. It would be difficult to scale city-wide with relatively limited range and bandwidth.
City-wide, municipal WiFi projects failed big-time 10 years ago. Today, however, Google fiber, 5G and insatiable consumer demand are changing the landscape.
Portland’s Fiber-to-the-Premises Feasibility Study and Seattle’s Fiber-to-the-Premises Feasibility Study have more documentation.
Fiber to the Home is expensive because it requires trenching or “pole attachment” — the process of attaching wires to telephone poles, which is regulated by local government. When a new provider wants to attach their wires, each provider with wires already on the pole has to send a technician to move its wires to make way for the new one. That, and other costs make fiber expensive.
Intel is testing 5G using 2.5GHz equipment from Intel, Huawei, National Instruments, Agilent/Keysight and others in Hillsboro. Cloudification of Mobile Packet Core is one Intel thrust. The other is chips in phones and towers.
Portland’s Google Fiber is scaling back as newer (5G) wireless becomes a viable alternative — city-wide. That’s what this paper is all about. Using the unlicensed 3.5 GHz “shared spectrum” band to deliver LTE broadband at 1/10th the cost.
Our target is 100 Mbps “wireless fiber” service for $20/month. Maybe 10 Mbps for $9.95/month. Let’s perform some idle “back of the napkin” calculation to help determine the validity of this wild speculation.
- Better coverage. The coverage range between 2Ghz (AWS) and 2.6 GHz (Band 41) frequencies are now essentially the same – about 8 miles to the cell edge, thanks to higher power at 2.6 GHz and 8T8R MIMO antennas.
- 1 Gbps on 4G. Both T-Mobile and Sprint talk up 4G at 1 Gbp/s – today – with lots of carrier aggregation. The bandwidth of 3.5 GHz makes it practical.
- 15 Mile Range. If macrocell coverage averages 7.5 miles in each direction (15 miles total), then perhaps 10 macrocells on 2.5 GHz/3.5 GHz might provide 100 Mbps “wireless fiber” coverage along the Columbia River, from Portland to Astoria.
- Fewer towers.The 100 mile Columbia River corridor might need a total of about a dozen, macro towers.
- Inexpensive Relay Nodes. Another dozen “relay nodes”, about the size and cost of public WiFi hotspots, would fill in shadows from the Washington side. They are solar-powered and located hundreds of ft above the river. No need for backhaul.
- Wireless Fiber. In dense urban areas, the 3.5GHz radios would deliver 1 Gbps broadband to homes and business.
- Inexpensive. If a total of 30 radios were required, each costing an average of $30K ($10K for installation/$20K for the radio), that totals less than $1 million.
- Fiber Backbone. The Feds could pick up the cost of fiber to the towers. They’ve been subsidizing cellcos for decades. Fiber would be laid from Portland to Astoria, along the Portland and Western Railroad line.
If a 100 mile network along the Columbia River had a total of 10,000 subs, each paying $20/mo, that’s theoretically $200K/mo x 36 months or $7.2 Million by year three. If operating expenses were half that, it would still make millions.
Stakeholders who may benefit and pay for faster broadband would include consumers, city and county governments, first responders, schools, utilities, PUDs, BPA, ODOT, Ports, large industries, vendors like Intel, cruise businesses, railroads, cellular and cable companies.
Excluding Multnomah and Clark counties, the population near the Columbia River is over 200,000 people.
– In Washington, Cowlitz County (pop 102,410) is next to Clark County (pop 425,363), with Kelso WA (pop 11,925) its county seat. Wahkiakum County (4,000) has Cathlamet (pop 532) as its county seat and is connected across Puget Island (pop 798) and the Columbia River to Westport, OR (pop 321), by ferry. Pacific County, Wa (pop 20,920) is along the coast and the north shore of the Columbia.
Everyone gets 100 Mbps broadband. Governments, schools and parks get it free in exchange for infrastructure. Matching state or federal funds might be obtained more easily with a public service, non-profit approach.
Shared Spectrum at 3.5 GHz
The Citizens Broadband Radio Service, at 3.5 GHZ, has 150 MHz of unlicensed spectrum available. That is the key. The “free” spectrum also uses LTE. Ordinary phones will soon be able to roam into and out of the 3.5GHz service area.
Shared Spectrum at 3.5 GHz enables cost/effective, LTE-based 100 Mbps wireless. Only 3.5GHz combines the range of sub 6 GHz spectrum and the 100+ MHz bandwidth necessary for “5G” speed. Google is a leader in 3.5 GHz shared spectrum and Federated Wireless has an operational system which “sniffs” the airwaves for possible interference and assigns users a clear spectrum block.
A neutral operating company manages the spectrum. A variety of wireless carriers, both cellular and independent can use it. The Citizen’s Band Radio Alliance develops, markets and promotes LTE-based solutions.
The Wireless Innovation Forum has a signaling protocol for 3.5 GHz that enables different systems to interoperate. Federated Wireless, Google, Sony and others have been approved as administrators. Federated expects to deliver commercialized products for the 3.5 GHz band in mid 2017.
The CBRS rulemaking defines two classes of base stations: class A and class B. A class A are indoor or low power outdoor small cells, not unlike WiFi hot spots, with a maximum EIRP of 30 dBm (1 watt) equivalent to a 250mW radio with a 6 dBi antenna.
Class B base stations are meant for outdoor use with a maximum EIRP of 47 dBm (50 watts) and can be used for fixed wireless. The Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) are deployed mostly along coastal regions, to detect incumbent activities.
Mapping the LTE signal strength along I-30 and the Columbia would be the first step. The Network Signal Guru is an Android app for engineering field work while QualiPoc Android, by Rohde & Schwarz, is an industry standard for testing cell performance.
5G Infrastructure along the Columbia River
Proposing a 100 mile “wireless fiber” network along the Columbia would be grandiose a few years ago.
Things change. Carriers are no longer the only game in town. Now, 150 MHz of “free” 3.5 GHz spectrum is available. LTE radios are getting commodified and can be mounted anywhere. Faster. Cheaper. Even carriers are getting on-board.
Wave Broadband, a gigabit fiber and broadband services company, acquired two fiber-optic broadband companies: CoastCom, a Newport, OR-based company connects coastal Oregon and Central Oregon with fiber optic connections, and Vancouver, WA-based SawNet, a broadband services provider in the Columbia Gorge.
Colorado-based Zayo Group bought Vancouver-based Electric Lightwave, which was known as Integra, although Zayo is expected to cut expenses drastically. Here’s a network map of Electric Lightwave fiber and a list of Oregon’s Broadband providers.
What about “wireless fiber” in the upper Columbia? With Google’s data center in The Dalles a natural hub, perhaps 3.5 GHz “wireless fiber” will inevitably happen in that region. If so, that testing could be instructive for the lower Columbia. The distance from the Maryhill Museum to Portland is also about 105 miles (the same distance from the Interstate Bridge to the Columbia mouth).
Sam Hill built a road 100 years ago. The information highway of the 21st Century is paved with 5G. Fixed and Mobile. Wireless.
Standards-based 5G services will likely be launched by the end of 2018. Let’s see what she’ll do on the shared 3.5 GHz spectrum.
Adding up the 5G advantages
1. Fixed and Mobile Broadband
AT&T’s 3.5 GHz mobile radios operate within a 20 kilometer (12 mile) radius of mobile stations, according to AT&T’s FCC application. Tie a few dozen 3.5 GHz towers together with fiber and Columbia River communities will sing with 100 Mbps wireless. Everywhere.
A neutral host can assign bandwidth to multiple carriers using the 3.5GHz band. Everyone benefits. Network slicing allows different service providers and enterprises, including small ones, to use a virtualized, on-demand ‘slice’ of the network. It’s assigned dynamically.
Deliver both Fixed Wireless Access and Mobile Broad Band – with spectrum YOU control through a Neutral Operator. The 3.5 GHz shared network delivers 5G at 100 Mbps speeds within a coverage range of 5 miles. It’s expected to be available by 2018/2019. Two years.
MuLTEfire uses LTE on unlicensed frequencies and runs on Nokia’s cellular gear. At Mobile World Congress 2017, Nokia showcased their MulteFire compliant live service running on their Flexi Zone small cell. LTE provides better range and reliability but can use WiFi or 3.5 GHz shared spectrum.
One radio. Many carriers. Shared cost. Like WiFi.
Beamforming, using Multiple Input/Output antennas, enhances range and capacity. Massive MIMO is currently running on 2.6 GHz. It increases today’s (4G) capacity 3X to 8X. Softbank has hundreds of base stations up and running in Toyko. Huawei’s 128 element Massive MIMO increases range and capacity.
Sprint is unique in its use of TDD, where the transmit and receive is done on the same frequency channel, which makes Massive MIMO practical. Sprint is expected to be 1st in the US with Massive MIMO and Gigabit LTE. Over the next two years, thousands of base stations will be upgraded with massive MIMO radios by China Mobile and Softbank using the same 2.5/3.5 TDD system.
Nokia’s 4.5G Pro AirScale base station, available later this year, features 64-transmitter/receiver MIMO, for a fivefold capacity increase. At MWC 2017, Nokia will work with Sprint to demonstrate 3D Beamforming for throughput gains of up to eightfold in the uplink and fivefold in the downlink.
Sprint will be the first US carrier to get LTE-A Pro and 4.9G networks are expected to be workhorses long after 5G arrives.
Nokia’s flavor of 4.9G is based upon LTE Advanced Pro 2 (Release 14), supporting 3D beamforming, massive MIMO, Connected Cars, and LTE in shared spectrum. Cellular V2X is a part of Release 14 to enable always-connected vehicles.
Massive beamforming on 3.5 GHz may provide very high cell spectral efficiency (10x-20x of LTE), since multiple beams can also “re-use” the available bandwidth.
3. Relay Nodes
Relay Nodes (repeaters), are small cells that don’t require backhaul. They just repeat the cellular signal. More correctly, they are “translators” since these relay stations use the same frequency but “repeat” the signal on a different time slice. While bandwidth is reduced by half, range is nearly doubled.
Macrocell coverage in the lower Columbia would be supplemented with inexpensive “relay stations”, much like radio or tv repeaters. Using 2.5/3.5 GHz (TDD), coverage gaps could be filled and hundreds of users can share an antenna.
A transmitter high on a hill with a clear shot over the river makes all the difference. Solar-powered Relay Stations would be located high on the Washington side of the river. One 14 kWh Tesla Powerwall could provide battery backup. The average home uses 820 kilowatt hours a month, so a $5,500 PowerWall might run radios more than a week – just on batteries. The TD-LTE spectrum bands like band 42/43/US CBRS (3.5 GHz), band 41 (2.6 GHz), and band 40 (2.3 GHz) have large spectrum blocks for easy roaming and higher capacity. No need to support lower (cellular) frequencies from these relay sites.
One radio. No Fiber. No Vsat. Put a camera on it. Done.
4. Cloud Control
Getting rid of the bulky, energy hungry and proprietary cellular gear, normally on or near a cell tower, is a big step to simplifying installations and bringing them closer to the user. The hardware is moving from the tower to the data center. Cloud-based Radio Access Networks (C-RAN) enable small, economical cellular gear. Cellspots look like WiFi nodes and may be incorporated into light poles.
Huawei’s CloudRAN and CloudAIR futureproof technology upgrades by moving them to the data center. C-RAN can cut the capital and operating costs 30 to 50 percent. AT&T plans to install about 1,000 cells on lamp posts and telephone poles in the Bay Area this year. Nokia’s Cloud Packet Core, for example, allows for common anchoring of licensed spectrum, shared and unlicensed spectrum, including Wi-Fi and LTE-based MulteFire on 3.5GHz.
Data Centers can also run any cloud-based application. Less cost. More revenue. All the major telecom suppliers are in (Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, ZTE and Samsung). Intel is a big supporter of C-RAN as are most operators, like AT&T and Verizon.
The catch is you need 10 Gig fiber to the tower, so local fiber drops to each tower would be required. The Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI) standardizes the interface between the remote base station and the radio head on the tower for interoperability between vendors.
5. Internet of Things
Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), part of LTE Advanced Pro in Release 13 and beyond, is optimized for low data rates and IoT applications. It reduces device complexity, enables multiyear battery life and provides deeper coverage to reach sensors and meters in remote rural areas or inside buildings. When 5G becomes commercially available, IoT connectivity will be further enhanced.
A new class of 5G IoT devices will provide services when failure is not an option. Surveillance drones used in firefighting, for example, need to be controlled remotely and operate beyond line of sight. 5G IoT will provide sub-1 millisecond latency and ultra-reliable communications between the drone and its pilot.
Columbia County Dial a Ride, for example, requires millions in subsidies with fully 71 percent of CC Rider’s $1.7 million budget coming from grants. Autonomous shuttles might improve service AND save money – but they require vehicle connectivity. Subsidies and population could fall into a downward spiral. A blanket of 5G wireless is a good defense against an unknown future.
6. Device to Device
Device to Device (D2D) communications works like a walkie-talkie. LTE D2D communications is a peer to peer link which does not use the cellular network infrastructure, but enables LTE based devices to communicate directly with one another when they are in close proximity.
LTE device to device communications can be used to communicate locally between devices even if the LTE network has failed – like after a disaster – or if you are too far from a tower. Very useful for first responders. LTE D2D first appeared in LTE Release 12 and was refined in Release 13 with Mission Critical Push-To-Talk for first responders.
7. LTE Broadcast
LTE Broadcast or Multicast-broadcast single-frequency network (MBSFN) is a point-to-multipoint interface across multiple cell sites. Like television. It’s one way, but can deliver audio, video or data broadcasts to hundreds of mobile phones, simultaneously. Unlike traditional broadcasting, content only is transmitted to a cell site where there currently are viewers/listeners. LTE broadcast allows more efficient media transmission and reception but doesn’t require a tuner and antenna (like the defunct MediaFlo).
Half of all smartphones are now equipped with FM reception via smartphone apps like NextRadio, which provide audio content via FM radio. But the coast and Columbia River don’t have many FM radio stations, so LTE-Multicast could deliver a quality signal without much carrier overhead.
The Columbia Broadcasting System could “broadcast” along the length of the river using only a tiny fraction of the cellular spectrum. Content might include emergency alerts, marine radio, Coast Guard channels, talk group re-broadcasts, commercial radio, live river video, AIS vessel tracking or other features.
8. TV Over the Top
Cable-TV is going online with AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Dish Networks’ SlingTV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, Hulu, and YouTube TV in addition to Netflix and Amazon Prime. Charter Communications will be the first US cable company to trial 5G with the one thing Verizon needs — content.
These linear streaming packages typically include AMC, Discovery, Disney, Fox, NBCUniversal, Viacom, Turner, Univisión, and others starting at $20 per month. That compares with the typical minimum subscription cost of $60 for cable — and customers are not required to sign a contract. All you need is a good broadband connection. Video at 4K requires 15-30 Mbps…and 4.5G.
With 2K/4K video, the higher throughput and greater capacity of Massive MIMO on 3.5 GHz may be required. It supports simultaneous video playback on 75 channels and the cell edge throughput increases tenfold, from 3 Mbps to 30 Mbps, meeting the requirements of 2K/4K HD video, according to Huawei, who has installed hundreds of MIMO basestations for China Mobile. Up to eight subscribers might share bandwidth because not everyone will use bandwidth simultaneously.
Dozens of top rated cable channels for $20-$35/month. Cloud VCR. Choose your channels. Cancel anytime. A cable, phone, mobile, and broadband package. It could squash Comcast like a bug. Kill the cellular activation fees, monthly device charges, phone upgrade fees and data overage charges.
9. Community Enhancement
The Columbia View Park in St. Helens, which has an wonderful view of the Columbia River, Mt St Helens and Mt Hood, could offer broadband to everyone along the river (and elsewhere), including the Columbia County Sheriff’s office.
Same deal with Scappoose which could deliver broadband to Marks on the Channel, a floating restaurant, and nearby marinas like Happy Rock Moorage, Rocky Point Marina, McCuddy’s Big Oak Marina, and the Multnomah Channel Yacht Club
10. All Together Now
So there it is. “Wireless Fiber” for everyone. Fixed Wireless Access and Mobile Broad Band. Licensed and Unlicensed. Shared radios, free spectrum, low cost infrastructure and cloud control. Broad IoT support for new businesses and applications. Push-to-talk for first responders and Voice over LTE for everyone. Over the top TV packages and LTE Broadcast. No truck roll. Starting 2H 2017. Right now.
Available Now: 4.5G
Sprint has some 60 MHz available throughout Washington and Oregon and may make a good partner because Sprint’s 2.5 GHz (Band 41) and 3.5 GHz shared spectrum both use TDD and could utilize the same antenna and backhaul. Sprint might provide a licensed alternative and fall-back for legacy phones and devices. The key features of 4.5G are:
2017 will be the year of LTE-Advanced Pro, says Heavy Reading.
Voice over LTE, available on 4.5G, has up to 3X more voice capacity than 3G and 6X more capacity than 2G – without the requirement to support legacy telephone infrastructure and licensed spectrum. Phones using Qualcomm’s X20 modem, available next year, can use 3.5/5 GHz “shared” spectrum as well as licensed spectrum.
Early Gigabit LTE Launches
– Sprint has deployed Gigabit LTE in New Orleans in the Smoothie King Center (next to the Superdome) using their massive MIMO (64T64R) antenna pushing speed to 3-6 Gbps using LTE on 2.5 GHz spectrum. Here’s Sprint’s Massive MIMO operating in New Orleans. The X12 modem found in current Snapdragon 820 powered phones is capable of achieving speeds up to 600Mbps.
– High Power User Equipment (HPUE) was initially defined for US Public Safety Band 14 (700MHz) to increase the coverage range from 4km to 8km (5 miles). It was utilized by Sprint on their TDD band 41, gaining a 30 percent increase in coverage with a 3dBm higher transmit power (26dBm). The first Gigabit LTE smartphones with HPUE include the Galaxy S8, Moto Z, Sony’s XZ Premium and ZTE’s Gigabit Phone.
– Redzone Wireless, a Wireless ISP in Maine, uses 4G and 2.5 GHz spectrum for the backhaul with Wi-Fi inside the home, for 50 Mbps fixed service at $80 per month. They use BreezeCOMPACT 3000 basestations (which also work at 3.5 GHz).
– Australia offers gigabit LTE to the home using 2.5 GHz backhaul and a Netgear home router. Australia’s Gigabit is not using 5G, but 4G LTE on a commodity Netgear wireless router that incorporates Qualcomm’s X-16 LTE modem. Around 80,000 premises will be serviced by Australia’s 3.5GHz wireless network.
– Point Broadband will deploy LTE technology to underserved residents and businesses in areas of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. They use a combination of the 3.65 GHz and 2.5 GHz with Telerad gear like the BreezeMax which provides an extended coverage up to 15 km/9 miles. Currently, ZTE and Huawei make the most affordable LTE femtocells and USB sticks with import restrictions now lifted.
5G will completely transform fixed wireless broadband, according to ABI Research, which predicts 30% growth over the next few years.
The current 4G standard is Release 13, LTE Advanced Pro (4.5G), and is available now. LTE-Advanced Pro 2 (4.9G) will be available late in 2017 as Release 14 and will offer enhancements to LTE Broadcast and public safety. The first official 5G standard, Release 15, is scheduled for June 2018 with products arriving in 2019-2020. Dozens of major telecoms have backed a unified 5G specification by June 2018 (for Release 15) and December 2019 (for Release 16).
5G is transformational. It will stimulate the development of new businessess around new services. A bridge to the future — not a toll-way for private companies. Much of that capability is available right now in LTE 4.5 and LTE 4.9 standards (release 13 and 14).
5G: Open with New Management
5G wireless is the new kid on the block. “Wireless fiber” eliminates the wires. Unlike 4G, new wireless networks have 10 to 100 times the bandwidth and can use “free” shared spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band.
The new 3.5 band is opening up with enough spectrum for everyone. It’s shared. Mobile providers, ISPs, governments or private business can all use it. Like WiFi. A new management system coordinates use of the 3.5 GHz spectrum.
Multiple Input/Output antennas beam internet broadband to homes. “Wireless fiber” won’t enable broadband solutions for everyone, it will be a solution for many.
Sprint and Ericsson have been demonstrating Gigabit LTE using 3 channels on Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum, but 3.5 GHz spectrum is the new frontier. Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung and others have chips for the 3.5GHz frequency band (with up to 150 MHz of bandwidth available).
The 5G New Radio (NR), due in 2019-2020, is backwards compatible with LTE but integrates new features for improved cost/effectiveness.
The New Frontier: 3.5 GHz
Google Fiber is going wireless because it can save $500-$1000 per home and pole attachment fees. The expectation is that 5G wireless and shared spectrum will enable affordable 100 Mbps service.
– Ericsson and Federated have teamed up on 3.5 GHz for shared spectrum solutions.
– Google’s Alphabet Access announced two major milestones: Their first end-to-end Citizens Broadband Radio Services demo (using 3.5 GHz mobile devices with Qualcomm’s X-20 modem), and a new Trusted Tester Program, to help hardware vendors test their equipment against Google’s backend.
– Nokia and Federated Wireless have partnered on 3.5 GHz solutions. Nokia provides the indoor/outdoor 3.5 GHz small cells through its Flexi Zone solution, while Federated provides their cloud-based controller to share the spectrum.
– Small 3.5GHz Outdoor home receivers are available now with a gain of 10dBi or 20dBi (with an external antenna).
– Nokia, Google and Qualcomm demonstrated a private LTE network over 3.5 GHz shared spectrum at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, streaming 4K 360° video. ZTE’s Gigabit Phone will use Qualcomm’s X16 modem and can shoot 4K, 360-degree VR.
– Multiple carriers could offer 5x carrier aggregation (a 100 MHz wide channel), with 60 GHz (3 channels) on the shared 3.5 GHz band. MuLTEfire allows a carrier like Sprint to supply only 40 MHz on their 2.5 GHz band, while the remaining 60 Mhz can easily be provided from 3.5 GHz. Other carriers could offer similar Gbps deals, probably using their mid-band AWS spectrum. LTE-based routers bring it all home — voice, data and video.
– Huawei and SoftBank delivered a peak downlink rate of 1.4 Gbps using massive MIMO on only 40 MHz of the 3.5 GHz band with “multi-carrier technologies” in Tokyo. The 5G terminal throughput can reach up to 5 Gigabits per second at the downlink, according to Huawei. They showcased products at Mobile World Congress 2017.
Shared spectrum and infrastructure can be shared by multiple providers. The new approach enables a non-profit operator, governed by stakeholders, to manage the network and prepare the site for lease. Like a real estate developer. Different entities provide different (or competing) services. Each provider can do what they do best…meter reading or television for example.
– Cellular operator. Provides automated handover for voice and data services where they have no coverage.
– Cable operator. Provides local and national television entertainment or internet service.
– Independent ISP. Provides a range of speeds, QOS and point to point services.
– PUDs. Utilize Internet of Things for automated water, electric or gas metering.
– First Responders. Utilize push-to talk and fleet communications capability, device to device, even streaming or PTT video.
– Business and Entrepreneurs. New businesses are enabled including drones, autonomous cars and vessels, and IoT services.
It democratizes the Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) because nobody “owns” the wireless network infrastructure. It’s shared. Equitable rates are guaranteed from the neutral operator. Revenues are determined up front, lowering risk.
Unlicensed Power Play
First up will be phones using the “free” WiFi band for LTE communications. The LTE radio interface is generally thought to be superior to the Wi-Fi protocol stack with better subscriber authentication, handoff, and channel utilization. LTE can be now used on the unlicensed (WiFi) bands using the technology called LTE-U or LTE-LAA.
AT&T will have phones that can support LAA in the 5 GHz WiFi band later this year. T-Mobile will offer LTE-U services this spring for the 5 GHz band.
When being used by phones, the 5 GHz WiFi band is re-defined as Band 46 (5150 to 5925MHz) and uses TDD mode in Release 13 & 14, on the “free” 5 GHz band, although transmit power is limited to a few milliwatts compared to 20 watts or so for licensed cellular. Early LAA systems adopt a single 20MHz channel within the 5GHz band.
LTE-LAA allows carriers to use the unlicensed (free) 3.5 and 5 GHz (WiFi) spectrum, although it requires a (licensed) cellular carrier to operate it, effectively allowing one carrier to be the gate keeper. Using the 3.5 GHz “shared spectrum”, LTE phones and devices can have more power, have less interference, more bandwidth, and better range than their 5 GHz cousins.
MuLTEfire does not require a licensed cellular operator. MuLTEfire brings LTE to both 5 GHz and 3.5 GHz but operates completely independent of any cellular operator (although it can provide seamless roaming with licensed carriers). MuLTEfire allows ALL operators to participate in the benefits of unlicensed spectrum.
MulteFire will operate in 20 MHz TDD sub-bands, capable of peak data rates up to 400 Mbps (using 4×4 MIMO with 256 QAM) and allows multiple subbands to be aggregated. The 3.5 GHz spectrum has some 150 MHz available, so 1 Gbps should be achievable aggregating only three, 20 Mhz bands.
GE Digital, Nokia and Qualcomm have demoed a private LTE network for the Internet of Things using the US 3.5 GHz shared spectrum band with MulteFire to leverage LTE advantages including full mobility, high data rates and coverage, predictable latency, quality of service and ease of deployment.
Are carriers motivated to do a serious cost/analysis? Perhaps not. Sharing spectrum just increases competition, and they’ve got government handouts to maintain profitability. Fine. If carriers want to be silos of coal-fired broadband, they can. Private industry could step in, managed cooperatively with local jurisdictions or public utility districts. There is a profit incentive and a real value proposition. A rack in a data center provides cheaper cloud-based radio control. Expenses are shared.
By contrast, traditional 3G/4G is expensive and slow.
This is the New Stuff
Lots of 5G news and gear was available at Mobile World Congress 2017, the big telecom show in Barcelona this year. All the big telecom vendors showed “shared spectrum” gear.
It’s not unlike the five stages of grief. Vendors are moving towards acceptance while carriers are still bargaining over 3.5. Wireless ISPs may be in denial. Consumers just want a fast, reliable solution.
The only thing missing at MWC this year was the consumer device – end user devices using “shared spectrum”. The first consumer gear isn’t expected until later this year and it may be two years before devices show up in phone stores. A 1 Gbps Netgear home router ($250) with Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem might be expected 1H 2018, about the time the other initial 5G pieces will start coming together.
– Nokia’s current 1 Gbps TD-LTE solution incorporates an AirScale Base Station for Cloud RAN and a Massive MIMO Adaptive Antenna with 128 elements coupled to a Micro Remote Radio Head for operation in both licensed and unlicensed bands. Nokia says it lowers cost by 40% by enabling more subs per site.
– Ericsson does 1 Gbit/s using 4×4 MIMO and three bonded channels of 2.5GHz. Sprint has more than 160MHz of 2.5GHz (Band 41) spectrum in the top 100 U.S. markets and today has deployed three-channel carrier aggregation on 2.5GHz in more than 100 markets.
– The CommScope S1000 small cell supports both (licensed) 2.5 GHz TD-LTE and (unlicensed) 802.11ac concurrent Wi-Fi in a compact device that can be self-installed through a self-organizing network (SON) with automated provisioning. Support for 3.5 GHz would be easier since there’s no interference between 2.4/2.5 GHz bands.
– SpiderCloud Wireless announced the first hardware that supports both LTE on licensed spectrum as well as the (unlicensed) 3.5 GHz band with interoperability on the Federated Wireless Spectrum Access System (SAS). Verizon may use it with their carrier-controlled LTE-LAA for indoor cellular coverage. One drawback: no phones (yet) support the shared 3.5 GHz LTE band.
– Ericsson’s 5G Core System is based on network slicing, where operators can create dedicated virtual networks with specific functions. It’s in early-stage trials with 28 operators. Ericsson first demo is using a 5G New Radio (NR) with 800MHz bandwidth, on the 15GHz band.
– Verizon will offer 5G in 1H 2017 to pilot customers in Seattle and elsewhere, although it’s using a proprietary “standard” and pt to pt networks. Verizon will probably have to upgrade its physical equipment to make it compatible with the 5G standard.
– China Mobile, Qualcomm and ZTE are deploying 3.5 GHz, to drive the mobile ecosystem toward rapid commercialization. Huawei was the first to pass 3.5 GHz cross-compatibility tests with a range of industry-standard hardware. Interoperability testing and trials will start in the second half of 2017. ZTE’s Massive MIMO antenna is used in Japan. Ericsson announced they’d be shipping 64 antenna systems in 2017 with Huawei, ZTE, and Facebook showing 96-128 antenna systems.
– Nokia’s 4.9G kit will adhere to the 3GPP’s Release 14 spec (dubbed LTE Advanced Pro 2), due for ratification March 2017. Nokia’s Cloud RAN runs virtualised 3G, 4G and 5G radios over their current AirScale and AirFrame radios and antennas. Release 14 supports up to 32-antenna Massive MIMO, for better beamforming accuracy and efficiency.
– Sprint’s will push its own 2.5GHz spectrum as a 5G band, as the operator prepares to ramp up to “Gigabit LTE” with 128-element antenna arrays. A field trial is to come this year, and “the deployment will follow soon,” said Sprint’s CTO John Saw. The Nokia antennas can deliver “nearly 3Gbit/s” at the cellsite with 64 transmitters and 64 receivers (64T64R) to improve connection performance, speed and capacity on its 2.5GHz network.
– The new ZTE 5G base stations use massive multiple input, multiple output (MIMO), Beam Tracking, beamforming and other key 5G technologies. Through 16-stream transmission, the theoretical peak traffic rate of a single site reaches 2.9Gbps.
Qualcomm’s X20 LTE modem supports Gigabit LTE in the 3.5 GHz band, LTE Broadcast and Voice over LTE with first commercial devices expected in the first half of 2018.
– The Snapdragon X50 5G modem will be embedded in mobile routers and phones for “wireless fiber”. Mobile and fixed. It’s is expected to bring 100 Mbps “wireless fiber” to homes for less cost than any option. No wires. No truck roll.
The first 5G phones and routers, supporting both 3.5 GHz and traditional 4G service, will arrive in 2018-2019. Less than two years.
– Official 5G specs will support super high frequencies (24-39 GHz) in Rel-15 using the New Radio (NR), but the first 5G commercial service arrives in Sept 2017 for the Winter Olympics in Korea using Ericsson’s 5G AIR 6468 supporting both 4G and 5G with 64 transmit and 64 receive antennas and Cloud RAN.
28 GHz: Too High, 2 GHz: Too Low
In July of 2016, the FCC allocated 11 GHz of spectrum, including bands at 28 and 39 GHz. AT&T and Verizon will test “5G” in 2017, but they’re mostly using 24-39 GHz point to point networks. Likewise, AT&T’s AirGig could use power lines for multi-gigabit, wireless broadband but requires dense populations a few hundred feet from powerlines.
The 5GTF (Verizon 5G Technology Forum) is a pre-standard draft specification using Nokia’s AirScale radio and AirFrame data center platform that runs on Intel architecture. But Verizon’s 5GTF is a non-standard “silo” and range at 28 GHz is extremely limited.
Dish plans to deploy a 5G-capable network, focused on supporting IoT — using their AWS-4 Band and Lower 700 MHz Block — that “will not be burdened with a requirement to be backward compatible with 3G/4G services.”
The Dish AWS/700 MHz spectrum may total 65 MHz. That may not be enough bandwidth for “wireless fiber” and the Dish spectrum is unlikely to be “shared”, increasing cost and risk to cover rural areas.
To summarize; the 24-39 GHz bands are not applicable for rural users since range is extremely limited. Meanwhile the 65 MHz of (licensed) Dish spectrum is too limited to deliver “wireless fiber”, and too low in frequency for Massive MIMO beamforming to “reuse” the bandwidth. The correct number is 3.5.
The Shared 3.5 GHz Band: Just Right
Today the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem supports the shared 3.5 GHz band, and works on licensed and unlicensed (free) spectrum. The 3.5 GHz band consists of 150 MHz of spectrum (3550-3700 MHz) and the FCC has adopted rules for commercial use of the band by virtually anyone. In a year or so phones with Qualcomm’s X20 modems will be able to seamlessly roam into and out of 3.5 GHz shared spectrum, while multi-gigabit speeds will be supported by fixed wireless gear.
Beamforming and carrier aggregation, of the type used by Google’s Fi network, could help transform the Northwest economy by delivering 1 Gbps wireless — right now. Sprint’s three-carrier aggregation is available on 13 smartphones like the iPhone 7, Galaxy S7 and LG G5.
The Snapdragon X50 5G modem will most likely make “wireless fiber” compelling in 2-3 years with a 10x speed/cost advantage and support for 2.5 and 3.5 GHz. Intel’s 5G modem, ready for testing in a few months, supports the 3.3-4.2 GHz band as well as 28 GHz.
MuLTEfire enables any entity, regardless how small they are, to operate their own LTE network in unlicensed spectrum. It’s targeting the 5 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands. One radio. Multiple operators. More competition.
The unlicensed LTE standard is supported by Qualcomm, Intel, Google, Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, Comcast, Boingo, Cisco, Ruckus and others. Neutral hosts offer equitable access and save money – a compelling argument even in a post net-neutral environment.
New School Cellular
The current Radio Access Network consists of an Evolved Node B, the hardware that communicates directly to mobile handsets, and the Evolved Packet Core, the basestation. Both are moving to the data center in Cloud RANs because the functions which once required expensive gear, can be virtualized by commodity servers. Only the Remote Radio Head and the antenna remain on the tower.
Communications networks are going “flat”, everything over IP. Voice over LTE, now supported by some carriers, allows calls to be made and received over data networks. Similarly, many carriers offer Wi-Fi calling, routing voice calls automatically through Wi-Fi.
Operationally, a 1 Gbps Netgear home router ($250) receives the 5G backhaul and provides WiFi throughout the home or business. Newer 5G phones and other devices can roam seamlessly throughout the 3.5 GHz/2.5 GHz service area. A “greenfield” network – designed around 3.5 GHz – can eliminate lots of expensive voice-only baggage.
The Open Compute Project takes all the benefits from open source software to create a scalable and distributed cloud-based architecture for telcos. Nokia is a big supporter. All Facebook Data Centers are 100% OCP, such as the Prineville Data Center. Facebook’s Project ARIES is a proof-of-concept effort to build a base station with 96 antennas. Beamforming at lower frequencies will be used to provide wide-coverage connectivity to rural areas.
Equinix, the world’s largest provider of colocation services is part of OCP’s Telecom Infrastructure Project. The Telecom Infra Project (TIP), an initiative founded by Facebook and others, encourages the adoption of an open approach for multi-vendor interoperability and an open RAN architecture.
See a trend? Open Compute for the cloud RAN, Open G for the radio, and shared 3.5 GHz spectrum utilizing a Spectrum Access System (SAS). Federated Wireless and Alphabet’s Access have shown interoperability between their systems. Open source. Commodification. It’s a good thing.
While cellular systems must use specific licensed frequencies, both MuLTEfire (above) and OpenG (below) are much simpler to install and use. All carriers share one unlicensed band and one radio. Like WiFi.
OpenG is the Ruckus technology for in-building LTE using shared 3.5 GHz spectrum. Ruckus plans to make OpenG compatible with Qualcomm’s MuLTEfire, but it’s not tied to Qualcomm technology. The idea is that your phone will handoff (automatically) indoors, using unlicensed 5 GHz or 3.5 GHz. But it could be used outdoors as well.
For example, SuperBowl WiFi is shared by multiple carriers. Only one radio (not four) needs to be installed. A neutral host runs it.
Google’s 3.5 GHz wireless infrastructure on city light poles deliver Gigabit wireless for many blocks.
Google plans a 3.5 GHz radius of operations in Portland of 30 km (19 miles). The benefits of shared 3.5 GHz radios include:
(a) one radio shared by competitors
(b) “free” spectrum
(c) common backhaul
(d) common management of devices
(e) an open system not tied to a single vendor or network provider
(f) “wireless fiber” service
5G LTE over shared 3.5 GHz spectrum is expected to provide a 10x increase in speed with a simultaneous decrease in cost. Providing all residents with 100 Mbps speeds – at much lower cost – will start to happen in the next 2-3 years. Guaranteed.
Ericsson and China Mobile have a 5G drone, providing 1.5 Gbit/s to the drone using the 3.5GHz band. Handoff between towers can extend the 10 mi range of a DJi Inspire to hundreds of miles. The drone services market estimated at $700 million in 2016 is projected to reach $18 billion by 2022. 3GPP Release 14, ready in 2017, also defines Cellular-V2X for autonomous cars.
Possible Show Stoppers
(1) Carriers. One concern is that carriers like AT&T and TimeWarner, Verizon/Charter, or Comcast/Sprint will build out the 3.5 GHz infrastructure themselves, then control it. Perhaps 3.5 GHz for the “last mile”, then 5 GHz inside the home or business.
LTE-U or LTE-LAA let carriers lock out both 5 GHz (WiFi) and 3.5 GHz (shared) bands by tying it to a commercial cellular “anchor”. Carriers want to eliminate competition, not encourage it. What carriers MUST do is calculate their ROI if they use shared spectrum. Perhaps most carriers will come around to sharing the risk in low density populations.
(2) Legal Challenge. Carrier-free MuLTEfire doesn’t need a carrier running the show, but would carriers insist on LTE-U? A Neutral Host (like those used in stadiums) maintains equal access for ALL competing providers. But who will be the neutral host and how will it work? Developing host neutral procedures and agreements could be a big barrier. Without carrier support of 3.5 GHz services, the effort may be more difficult. On the other hand, carriers gain equal access as well.
The CBRS Alliance includes the four leading mobile operators in the US. But some carriers, particularly AT&T and Verizon, could choose to fight the whole system in court – especially if they could receive millions in government subsidies building a similar (LTE-U) network.
(3) Interference. Another concern is interference from Navy radars and a few satellite earth stations. But there are only about 27 ships in the world with SPY-1 phased array radar and earth stations are few, so maybe that threat is manageable. After all, the “listen before talk” software is supposed to allow sharing of frequencies.
(4) Range. Practical range is probably the most important factor, although estimates vary widely. Ericsson believes 3.5 GHz has a practical range over 5 miles, while AT&T’s FCC filing shows a radius of operation for 3.5 GHz tests at 10 km (6.2 miles).
This whole paper is contingent on a practical range of ~5 miles (for 30 Mbps). It may not be practical with foliage. Basestations (and fiber) located on the Washington side may deal with foliage better but would involve multi-state agreements. There simply is not enough information and technology in the field yet to provide hard data and provide guidance. Softbank’s Massive MIMO rollout in the 2.5/3.5 GHz bands would be a good guide.
(5) Fiber Backbone. The biggest cost item may be the fiber backbone, and the need to get fiber to each macrocell. The fiber backbone would be spit off at a dozen different communities along the river. Passive Optical Networking might then provide direct connection to the towers (and the local community). Who’s going to pay for that? It could cost millions.
Fiber could run along the Portland and Western Railroad. The state owns the right-of-way on the railroad from Wauna to Tongue Point. But is that the most practical solution? The regulations governing the building and sharing of a fiber line along the tracks and in individual communities are beyond the scope of this paper.
This paper won’t even try to accurately estimate the cost of a 120 mile Columbia River 5G network. That’s for another study. Currently, without off-the-shelf hardware and software, nobody can say.
But the savings will be disruptive. That much seems clear. We’re using “free” spectrum, commodity 3.5 GHz radios, 5G LTE with 10X-20x speed/capacity improvement, cloud RAN, and public rights of way. Those are huge savings.
Let’s say the cost is less then 1/10th the cost of one $50 million highway bridge. A “wireless fiber” route along the Columbia River or down the Oregon Coast would also pay for itself and supply homes and businesses with 100 Mbps internet service. Stakeholders would include governments and businesses. If a network costs $5M to build, perhaps $2.5M could come from the feds, $1M from Connect Oregon, 1M from carriers, and $500,000 from local governments, PUDs, and first responders like the Coast Guard.
Timing is also important. Early gear may cost 3 times the amount of succeeding generations which will shrink things down to chip size. Phased rollout might take several years. Let’s figure 3-5 years.
In 2017, people will have more screen time on mobile devices than on any other kind of screen. According to ABI Research, fixed wireless will have a 30% CAGR over the next few years. The Ericsson Mobility Report forecasts 550 million 5G subscriptions in 2022. Currently there are about 400 million mobile subs in North America.
About 35% of Millennials have never subscribed to cable with “cord nevers” accounting for 9% of the population, notes Pew.
Comcast has been selling 1-Gig service for $139.95 per month, with a promotional price of $70 per month with a three-year service contract. But how many people need 1 Gbps?
Comcast may have difficultly matching 100 Mbps for $20/month – especially when Over The Top streaming options are available on the internet.
FCC boss Ajit Pai is pushing to include broadband in the Trump infrastructure spending bill with any money administered through the FCC’s Universal Service Fund and Gigabit Opportunity Zones which are any areas where the average household income falls below 75% of national median. State and local lawmakers must also adopt streamlined, broadband deployment-friendly policies.
The goal of the FCC’s Connect America Fund (USF) is to have broadband available in nearly 100% of the country by the end of 2020. The total amount invested from the fund will be approximately $9 billion over the next six years.
Sprint “Spark” coverage along the Columbia River combines 800MHz, 1.9GHz and 2.6GHz. Using 8T8R antennas, Sprint’s 2.6 coverage and 1.9 GHz are said to be similar. Massive MIMO, utilizing dual band 2.5/3.5 GHz, would just increases the cost/effectiveness of broadband coverage.
Both the 2.6 and 3.5 GHz bands will use similar technology – Time Division Multiplex LTE – so radios are simplified. Costs shared.
The FCC defines broadband as 25 Mbps, so 100 Mbps wireless should meet the FCC’s definition (pdf) for the majority of a service area and qualify for federal Connect America funding. The FCC’s 2016 Fixed Broadband Report compares typical speeds from DSL and cable providers.
The Cowlitz Indian Tribe had to overcome numerous legal and regulatory hurdles including having to secure its tribal status with their opening of the $510 million Ilani Casino Resort near tiny La Center WA this spring. That region will certainly need more broadband.
Sharing 3.5 GHz
When (unlicensed) 5 GHz and 3.5 GHz are shared, costs can be dramatically lower since multiple providers share infrastructure costs.
The innovative Citizens Broadband Radio Service in the 3550-3700 MHz (3.5 GHz) range, is available in Incumbent Access tier, Priority Access tier, and General Authorized Access tiers.
Carriers might pay for Priority Access while GAA might be essentially “free”, with a low monthly operating fee.
Federated’s cloud-based CINQ XP is a three-tiered SAS that uses information from its Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) systems to dynamically allocate and manage spectrum resources. CINQ XP is powered by Intel technologies. Google uses their cloud system to manage spectrum issues dynamically while other operators use Amazon’s AWS.
Smart City WiFi
Kansas City and Sprint are creating a “Smart City” along their downtown streetcar line to provide free Wi-Fi along the route as well as installing smart lighting and sensors. It is expected to be self-sustaining through advertising.
The kiosks display community information and generate revenue. They also double as hubs, distributing 100 Mbps wireless broadband to end users, using cloud-controlled Open Mesh WiFi or (unlicensed) 3.5 GHz.
Operators and consumers can get fiber service using passive optical networks (PONs). Passive optical networks do not use electrically powered components to split the signal. Instead, cheaper and more reliable beam splitters are used to distribute the fiber signal.
Fiber to the premises would be more expensive than 3.5GHz wireless, requiring trenching, truck rolls and a crew, but it could be possible.
Broadband Wireless Alternatives
Communities everywhere along the Columbia would benefit from cost/effective wireless broadband network. Google’s Fi network – and any number of alternative approaches – could deliver wireless broadband access, stimulating the economy, providing enhanced safety and commerce. It would be prudent. An oil, coal or gas spill will cost millions to clean up.
It is likely that LTE-A services – like Sprint’s 2.6 GHz band – will be among the first to offer “5G”. Intel is testing 5G on 2.6GHz in Hillsboro. Every community along the Columbia River, from Portland to Astoria, could have affordable broadband wireless within 5 years, most likely utilizing 5G in the 2.6 and 3.5 GHz bands (since only those bands have the necessary bandwidth).
But first, let’s look at some alternate choices for broadband wireless:
(a) FirstNet: The First Responder LTE Network
FirstNet is a dedicated LTE network for first responders. It uses the 700 MHz LTE public service band using dedicated LTE infrastructure. A 700 MHz cell can provide LTE cell sizes of 10 sq-km (about 4 sq miles) with a cell-edge performance of about 1 Mbit/s.
AT&T is likely going to provide FirstNet service for public safety, mostly co-located on their towers. AT&T has 10 MHz available on 700 Mhz Band 17 and may have another 10 MHz on the D Block for FirstNet, along with $6.5 billion for designing and operating the nationwide first responder network. AT&T would have the right to sell excess capacity on the system. But 20 MHz, shared between first responders and the public, does not add up to a broadband network.
FirstNet may be too expensive, limited and obsolete, according to skeptics. If FirstNet awards a contract in 2017, it will be years before anything is ready to use. Commercial carriers in the 600 MHz bands (and 3.5 GHz shared spectrum) may provide better coverage, features and speed at lower cost.
Nokia’s mission-critical LTE public safety portfolio includes traditional push-to-talk features as well as push-to-video and compatibility with 3G and Wi-Fi networks. Available now … not in two years. First responders already get Priority Access to cellular networks. FirstNet is narrow-band and dedicated to first responders, but it’s an entire generation late.
(b) High Altitude UAVs and Balloons
Among other possibilities might be a UAV orbiting at 65,000 feet above Tillamook. Although just speculation, this concept might provide direct LTE connections from Portland out to 125 miles off the coastline. A military-style Pacific-coast drone network (using 2-3 long duration UAVs), might also provide direct radio contact for areas in the Pacific coast range mountains that currently have no wireless coverage.
The Solara 50 solar-power UAV from Titan Aerospace carries 70 lb payloads to 20 kilometers (12 miles), and acts as an cellular base station providing an 18-mile coverage radius. DARPA’s Mobile Hotspots program aims to build mobile 70/80 GHz backhaul for UAVs, connecting at 1 Gb/s.
Google’s Loon project uses LTE to provide as much as 22 MB/sec to a ground antenna and 5 MB/sec to a handset. Recent developments have enabled Google to reduce the number of balloons required by a factor of ten making it potentially more feasible.
Tillamook’s Johnson Near Space Corporation makes and operates high-altitude balloons for NASA along with many private clients. But balloons and drones may be too slow and expensive to be practical 24/7.
(c) High Throughput satellites
Consumer satellite-based internet is available now for under $100/month. New satellites from Hughes and ViaSat are becoming more competitive to cellular alternatives with up to 25 Mbps downloads, although lag is still a problem, especially for voice. Both ViaSat and Hughes can now deliver backhaul to remote cell sites faster and cheaper, as well.
ViaSat-2, has 2.5X the capacity of ViaSat-1, while ViaSat 3, launching in 2019, will have 2.5X the capacity of ViaSat-2. When it launched 4 yrs ago, ViaSat-1 was the first “High Throughput Satellite” and had as much bandwidth as all the rest of the satellites in the world combined. ViaSat 2 launches in March or April, 2017. More capacity, same or lower price. Each user must buy or rent an expensive Vsat terminal and modem, of course.
ViaSat competitor Hughes launched Jupiter-2, last year with 138 beams. It will provide Internet service with 50 percent more capacity than JUPITER 1. High capacity satellites are revolutionary. They make cellular backhaul practical when fiber is not available. When Superstorm Sandy knocked out 25 percent of all cellphone communications across 10 NE states in 2012, Hughes JUPITER VSATs were deployed. The downside is their high latency.
Intelsat’s Kalo service, using a flat, beam-forming antenna the size and shape of a stop-sign, will charge $29 for a gigabyte of data to $899 for 80 gigabytes at 100 Mbps. The service is likely to benefit from Intelsat’s proposed merger with OneWeb and provide mobile broadband for first responders and others.
It’s unique in that is positioned over the equator, but at low orbit, so multiple satellites drift by. It delivers backhaul to remote cell sites with reduced latency (lag). But the tracking terminal is relatively expensive and is not targeted for end-users.
(d) Low Orbit Satellites: Broadband Everywhere
Giant LEO satellite constellations have been announced by OneWeb and SpaceX. OneWeb’s constellation is backed by Qualcomm, Softbank, Virgin Group and others. It plans about 700 low orbit satellites to deliver broadband to cell towers (not end users).
Airbus is building 900 satellites for OneWeb to beam broadband from space by 2019. OneWeb has the frequencies and bankroll to be a serious player.
OneWeb may deliver 50 Mbps per tower, using their 16 identical user beams per satellite.
SpaceX is planning a 4,000-satellite constellation (FCC filing), with Google and Boeing as backers (FCC filing). Their initial operation of the constellation could begin as early as 2020.
These new space entrepreneurs are proposing hundreds or thousands of small satellites, built in-house. LEO satellites MAY offer ubiquitous broadband and potentially eliminate the need for fiber to connect cell towers. The satellite backhaul will be expensive, but it could be a great backup system.
Kymeta’s flat antenna steers the beam electronically. No moving parts. Currently, High Throughput Satellites require a comparatively large dish with moving parts. Kymeta’s flat antenna eliminates the need for a gimbaled dish.
Satellites are handy since they can provide internet connectivity if the fiber backbone is down or destroyed. They can feed a terrestrial broadband wireless network although speeds would be slower and running costs would be higher.
(e) TV White Spaces
The 600 MHz band includes a single (WS) three megahertz guard band above channel 37 and a duplex gap of 11 megahertz between the wireless uplink and downlink services bands for a single 6 MHz channel. If AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile each bought 10 MHz, that’s 6 (5MHz) slots, times two.
The FCC allows unlicensed devices to operate in the TV bands at locations where frequencies are not in use by licensed services. “White space” devices can be fixed or personal/portable. Roughly speaking, fixed devices are permitted to operate with up to one watt transmitter power output and use 6 dBi gain antenna to produce a maximum power of 4 watts EIRP. Portable devices can operate up to 100 milliwatts EIRP.
The rural lower Columbia region doesn’t have incumbent broadcasters so channel space will likely be available. Communities across the country have begun to deploy TVWS networks with public libraries supporting remote Wi-Fi access points in parks, community centers, and kiosks.
Carlson Wireless RuralConnect can cover an area up to 20 km (12 miles) in diameter. The IEEE 802.22 standard is a longer range version of the 802.11af standard. With one 6 MHz TV channel it can deliver a maximum bit rate of 19 Mbit/s at a 30 km distance.
A Columbia River Whitespace network might have hotspots every 10-20 miles. Lower frequency White Spaces may have longer range but speed in the shared 6 MHz channel would be greatly constrained.
LTE in both White Spaces and 3.5 GHz (using MuLTEfire) seems likely to be a gamechanger, enabling more reliable, less expensive long range connections.
Unfortunately, the IEEE 802.22 WS standard still lacks automatic handoff, so any long distance drone application may be more conceptual than currently practical. Beyond Visual Line of Sight rules will have to wait for new FAA regulations and cellular support (for automated handoff).
The above map (for illustration purposes only) fills in the White Space coverage areas (from community libraries) with about 20 more (yellow) White Space access points. Whether or not comprehensive wireless coverage all along the Columbia River, from Portland to Astoria, using either White Space or 2.6 GHz relay nodes (5G) is practical has yet to be determined.
(f) The new 600 MHz Band
The 600 MHz auction raised almost $20 billion, with $10 billion going to broadcast television owners *who never really ‘owned’ the spectrum in the first place.
Outgoing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “We will repurpose 70 MHz of high-value, completely clear low-band spectrum for mobile broadband on a nationwide basis. On top of that, 14 MHz of new unlicensed spectrum – the test bed for wireless innovation – will be available for consumer devices and new services.”
The FCC auctioned seven blocks of 10 MHz in the 600 MHz auction, generating a total just under $19 billion. But our need is for high speed “fixed” service. The 2.5/3.5 GHz band has chunks of 60 MHz available. That’s the equivalent of ten, 6 Mhz channels on the 600 MHz band. Gigabit wireless speeds are just not possible on 600 MHz band. Besides, beam forming and high gain won’t work on TV frequencies. Surprisingly, carriers acted sensibly, not overpaying for low band/low speed spectrum.
(g) Unlicensed 900 MHz Band
Alternatively, the 802.11ah WiFi standard, using the unlicensed 900 MHz band, might deliver a usable range of several miles in each direction for low speed data. Sigfox also uses 900 MHz, with wireless throughput up to 100 bits per second for Internet of Things. You might get better range at 900 MHz band or using unused television frequencies, but you wouldn’t get much speed.
The Sweet Spot: 2.5/3.5 GHz
If you want 100+ Mbps to the home, the 2.5 GHz (licensed) and 3.5 GHz (unlicensed) is where you need to be — only those bands have the combination of 100+ MHz of bandwidth (for speed) and a low enough frequency (for coverage range) of 5+ miles. Google has requested FCC authorization to operate up to a maximum radiated power (EIRP) of 66 dBm with operations varying from 7 km to 40 km (4-25 miles).
Want speed and range? There’s really only one choice – the 2.5/3.5 GHz band. Shared infrastructure and (free) spectrum also lowers cost dramatically. No contest. Everyone knows it.
Delivering 100Mbps broadband to homes and businesses for $20/month is our goal. Fiber to the home becomes (mostly) unnecessary. 5G will support a 1 Gbps cell-edge data rate.
1. Shared Radios. Instead of expensive macro-cells and associated gear, small, shared basestations use 3.5GHz. Centralized Intel processors do all the work, eliminating bulky cellular gear on the tower. The 2.5/3.5 GHz band provides 100 Mbps to homes and business for $20/month. Cellular roaming using 4G phones could be enabled by the 2.5GHz band or mid-band AWS.
2. Shared Spectrum. A string of 20-40, 5G towers/relays along the Columbia River, using 2.6/3.5 GHz, provide “wireless fiber” to homes and business. The infrastructure and costs can be supported by competing carriers. Spectrum is shared. There’s 60 Mhz of bandwidth available at both 2.5 and 3.5 GHz. Plenty for multiple Gigabit beams.
3. Community Kiosks. Every community gets interactive kiosks if they want. The Kiosks provide free Wifi using cloud controlled Open Mesh. The display shows community news and generates revenue through ads. They double as wireless hubs, distributing 100 Mbps. Fiber to the home not required.
4. Fiber along the tracks. Government funding would cover the cost of laying fiber along the Portland and Western RR tracks. In exchange for free broadband, municipally owned water towers and other infrastructure could be used — far cheaper than tower leases from American Tower and Crown Castle (which both control the leases on 40,000 towers).
Broadband wireless stimulates economic development. Next gen radios will kick-start drones, autonomous cars and autonomous vessels. It’s a perfect storm for 5G, using a variety of frequencies. The whole region will benefit.
Federal Broadband Funding
Taxes on urban phone bills generate billions of dollars for the Universal Service Fund that serves rural areas. High-Cost Support (now known as the Connect America Fund) subsidizes phone companies that serve mostly rural communities to create rates and services comparable to urban customers.
The Connect America Fund (pdf) upgrades rural households to 10 Mbps down/1 Mbps up. It costs billions and subsidizes coverage to approximately 23 million Americans who lack access to 10 Mbps fixed broadband.
In February 2017, the FCC passed Mobility Fund II, approving $453M a year for LTE expansion in rural areas and tribal lands. To be eligible to receive the funds, service providers must be able to deliver median data speeds of at least 10 Mbps with a latency of less than 100 milliseconds. It’s what 3.5 GHz is uniquely qualified to deliver.
Connect America Fund II requirements range between 10 Mbps downstream/ 1 Mbps upstream and 25/3 Mbps, depending on deployment costs. The FCC says CAP II funding will be awarded through a competitive bidding process, with funding going to the carrier with the lowest weighted bid. Bids will be weighted to carriers who offer to deploy higher-speed services. VDSL2 maxes out at 100 Mbps over a single copper pair over distances of no more than about 3,000 feet.
In the first round two years ago, AT&T accepted nearly $3 billion in Phase II Connect America Funds, at a rate of $428 million per year over the next four years. Oregon and Washington are NOT among the 18 states where AT&T will use the money. Same deal with Verizon and Century Link.
Most all of Frontier’s government subsidy will go to Greg Walden’s constituents, not along the Oregon coast or the Columbia River. Frontier provides phone and internet access in some smaller Oregon communities as well as Washington and east Multnomah counties.
In areas that remain unserved and did not get a government handout, the FCC will award funding through a competitive bidding process. And 3.5 GHz is the way to win.
An area is classified as “eligible” for CAP II funding if the average monthly cost-per-location is above the $52.50 funding benchmark but below a $198.60 extremely high cost threshold, and not served by an unsubsidized competitor.
But the simple reality is that the 10x speed and 10x cost reduction enabled by 3.5 GHz now could make carrier subsidies irrelevant. It’s nice to have but now largely unnecessary — and you don’t have to slog through the graft, corruption and delay that often follows it.
Another (smaller) pot of money is the NSF’s Advanced Wireless Research Initiative which seeks to sustain U.S. leadership in wireless communications, spending $350 million over the next 7 years for academic research. NSF Grants for smart city, rural connectivity, as well as connected vehicles, UAVs and boats could be explored. US Ignite is a non-profit with close ties to the NSF and behind the Smart Gigabit Communities project, which is geared toward creating new gigabit-powered applications.
Mozilla’s Community Gigabit Fund, a joint project with the National Science Foundation and US Ignite, funded Eugene’s gigabit pilot.
Spectrum sharing and 5G are boss.
Currently Oregon has NO resilient internet plan after the big quake. But 5G towers, at 3.5 GHz, can deliver 100 Mbps along the Oregon Coast or Columbia River, starting in 2019. Put a Vsat under a mast. You’re good. It’s shared spectrum. I doesn’t matter who the carrier is.
Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler believes wireless carriers should partner with each other to move more effectively and efficiently to deploy 5G services. He’s talking about 3.5 GHz.
The NO COST shared band has some 150 MHz of bandwidth. Room for all. Shared by all. Like WiFi. Simple. Cheap.
The Coos Rail Line connects the largest commercial port on Oregon’s coast to the I-5 corridor. Some $2.5 million in federal funding was made available to the Port of Coos Bay to rehabilitate and repair the Coos Bay Rail Line and another $11 million for tunnel repair.
ConnectOregon has spent hundreds of millions in air, rail, marine, transit, and bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure. For example, Connect Oregon gave the Port of Portland $2.6 million for an Auto Staging Facility at Terminal 6. “Wireless fiber” seems like a good bet for the “information highway”, producing revenue and saving money.
Delivering 100 Mbps for $20/mo to 10,000 people is no pipe dream.
There are more than 200,000 people living on the Oregon coast. After a subduction zone earthquake, communications and economies will be virtually wiped out.
The Oregon coast isn’t getting CAP II funding…yet. Check out the Oregon coast with maps and drone videos.
Testing could start this summer. Nokia’s end-to-end 5G First system with a massive MIMO Antenna for the 3.5 GHz, 4.5 GHz, 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands could be mounted on the United Grain facility at the Port of Vancouver (Google map). It has a clear view over North Portland.
Downtown Portland grain elevators include the Dryfus terminal (by the Rose Garden) and the Tempco terminal (north of the Broadway Bridge). They could test “Wireless Fiber” capacity and range at 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz using Intel’s customer premises gear.
We have the technology. A cost/effective solution for everyone is now available. Let’s work with Google Fiber (and others) to bring it home.