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How long will AT&T's "cow" of 5G network coverage in the first half of 2020 last year be?

date: 2019-07-26
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On July 25, according to foreign media reports, the us telecommunications company AT&T officially announced in its second quarter earnings conference call that it plans to launch a national 5G network in the first half of 2020.AT&T says it has completed 60 percent of its 700MHz 4G public safety FirstNet deployment so far, in preparation for AT&T's 5G rollout in the first half of next year.


So far, AT&T has rolled out the 39GHz MMW 5G network in 20 U.S. markets, and will continue to deploy MMW networks in different markets, even though AT&T has plans to achieve nationwide low-frequency coverage.Speaking on the conference call, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said, 'it takes time to deploy a truly high-speed network, and future customers will experience extreme speeds of 1 Gbit/s over MMW networks.'Of course, Randall Stephenson also said 5G will be 'business-driven' for the time being, with only some companies and developers selling 5G terminals.


However, it is worth noting that the financial data disclosed this time shows that AT&T's net profit in the second quarter was only 3.7 billion dollars, although its revenue increased 15.3% year on year to 45 billion dollars, compared with 5.132 billion dollars in the same period last year, down 27.9% year on year.


Faced with such a sharp drop in net profits, it is no surprise that AT&T has come up with such a radical plan, and this time it is striking that the 5G spectrum it plans to deploy across America is in millimeter-wave form.In February, Sprint, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier, sued AT&T for misleading customers that it was using 5G networks.


Back then, it was reported that some U.S. phone users with AT&T's service already had '5G E' logos on their phones, replacing the old LTE.The meaning of '5G E' is '5G Evolution', theoretically the peak speed will reach 400M/s.If that's the case, it does mean users are getting the service of a real 5G network.But the puzzle is, how did AT&T get users to enjoy 5G networks when there were no 5G smartphones?


AT&T, for its part, argues that the 5G logo was caused by the fact that it has a service that gives it access to faster networks via a 5G mobile hotspot.


Clearly, AT&T is trying to mislead customers into thinking they're already on 5G.Sprint claims in its lawsuit that AT&T is trying to cheat its way into an unfair advantage in a saturated market by falsely claiming it is offering 5G wireless, when in fact it is offering only a premium version of 4G LTE.


So how can AT&T, with its history, convince others that it can deliver nationwide coverage on time and quality?And at a time when the United States is completely exclusive to information and is rejecting communications equipment from other countries, AT&T's promises are more like empty promises to offset declining profits.


If, in this period of time, AT&T suddenly achieves the goal of 'being in charge' and instantly knows all technologies of 5G in mind, it is possible to achieve this goal.This is clearly unrealistic, since this time AT&T claims that the 5G network it is deploying is in millimeter-wave frequency.


As we all know, the higher the frequency band, the larger the data transmission, the shorter the transmission distance, and the worse the penetration.Take visible light as an example, it is in a super high frequency band, but its penetrating ability can be considered basically not.The same is true of 5G millimeter-wave, which is not very good at mass coverage, nor is it as good at penetrating glass or walls as 4G, which makes its coverage limited.


In order to improve coverage efficiency and service experience, multi-antenna MIMO, multi-point coordination, carrier convergence and other collaborative enhancement technologies enable 5G to be more widely applied, but still cannot solve the problem of poor penetration of 5G millimeter-wave.Perhaps in a scenario where 5G millimeter-wave is used, a person standing in front of him may not be able to continue using 5G network.


And because 5G networks cover a smaller area, that means the number of base stations needs to be increased if the full experience is to be enjoyed.Some foreign media have carried out relevant tests on this, and the results show that the current 5G network download speed is quite unstable. The download time of the same movie in one location is three minutes, but after a few steps, the download time is more than 10 minutes, and the experience is greatly different.


In China, for example, there are 3.393 million 4G base stations, with an average of one 4G base station per 3 square kilometers, and the density of base stations in urban areas is obviously higher.To fully experience 5G network services, 5G base stations will be many times larger than 4G, which means there may be more than 10 million base stations in the future.China's 5G is still in sub-6 frequency band, and the number of base stations needs to be doubled if millimeter-wave is used.


In addition, because 5G base stations consume more power and choose more rf devices, the cost will be significantly higher, which is even more unbearable for AT&T.Let alone nationwide coverage in the first half of 2020, and if it does, it will probably be just a handful of 5G base stations in each city to use as road signs.


Why are American operators so obsessed with using MMW, given the difficulties it is having commercially?The pentagon released a report this year called 5G ecosystems: risks and opportunities for the pentagon.The report says U.S. carriers are focused primarily on 5G millimeter-wave deployments, because 5G's 3GHz and 4GHz spectrum used elsewhere in the world is mostly exclusively U.S. federal spectrum, especially the one widely used by the defense department.Compared with MMW, the 3GHz and 4GHz transmission range is improved, providing the same coverage and performance with fewer base stations.Because most of the sub-6 spectrum in the us is not available for civilian and commercial use, us operators and the federal communications commission (FCC), which controls us civilian spectrum, have made millimeter-wave spectrum the core of domestic 5G.


It is not that operators do not want to use sub-6 spectrum, but that the us department of defence and the military have already occupied it, forcing operators to opt for millimeter-wave.Now AT&T's announcement that it will offer nationwide 5G coverage in the first half of 2020 is uncertain.When the deadline comes, the truth will come out.(coordinating editor: Andy)


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