AT&T and Verizon Communications have agreed to delay by a month the commercial launch of their C-band wireless service pending an assessment of any effect on aviation safety. Both carriers had planned to launch their C-Band networks in early December, but have postponed deployment until early January.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the FCC said in a joint statement they would “continue to coordinate closely to ensure that the United States keeps pace with the rest of the world in deploying next-generation communications technologies safely and without undue delay.”
Both carriers agreed they would delay deployment at the Transportation Department’s request. AT&T said it would “continue to work in good faith with the FCC and the FAA to understand the FAA’s asserted co-existence concerns. It is critical that these discussions be informed by the science and the data.”
In August, just a few months before the C-Band spectrum was scheduled to be put to use commercially, aviation groups started pressing the FCC to halt the auction of that spectrum until more research on the effects of 5G operations in the C-Band can be understood and aviation groups can improve the resilience of future radar altimeter designs. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have collectively spent more than $100 billion on C-band spectrum licenses for 5G so far this year.
“The deployment of 5G in the C-band could lead to possible harmful radio frequency interaction with radar altimeters,” David Silver, AIA vice president for civil aviation, told Aviation Today magazine earlier this year. “Protecting the frequency bands used by these sensors, which provide direct measurements of an aircraft’s clearance height over terrain or other obstacles, is imperative to the safe operations of thousands of civil aircraft and the well-being of the flying public.”
Verizon and Lockheed Martin have signed an agreement to collaborate on 5G.MIL technologies that will provide ultra-secure, reliable connections for U.S. Department of Defense systems, bringing together high-tech platforms into a cohesive network spanning air, land, sea, space and cyber domains. The strategic relationship agreement also establishes a joint research and development lab framework to prototype, demonstrate and test 5G.MIL technologies.
Lockheed Martin’s 5G.MIL program is a robust, 5G-enabled, heterogeneous network that integrates military tactical, strategic and enterprise networks, and leverages existing telecommunication infrastructure technology. 5G.MIL will enable interoperability between 5G networks, NextG networks and operational DoD networks to enable effective and resilient communication across all domains.
Earlier this week, Lockheed Martin and Verizon conducted a joint demonstration using a Verizon private 5G network installed at Lockheed Martin Space’s 5G Test Range in Colorado, connected to a Lockheed Martin open mission system processor running mission applications at the Skunk Works Integration Facility and Test Center in Texas.
Initial tests demonstrated interoperability between Lockheed Martin open tactical gateway solutions and Verizon’s On Site 5G network technology. Specifically, situational awareness applications receiving Link-16 standard messages were linked to 5G user devices. Verizon’s infrastructure and Lockheed Martin’s open mission system tactical gateway technologies will help to address future anticipated requirements for tactical operations.
“Verizon is at the cutting edge when it comes to building out reliable, high performance 5G Ultra Wideband networks with mobile edge computing capabilities,” said Kyle Malady, chief technology officer at Verizon. “Our work with Lockheed Martin will help enable the creation of new and innovative products and technologies, helping DoD leaders achieve the goals laid out in their 5G strategy.”
“Lockheed Martin’s deep understanding of DoD mission requirements coupled with Verizon’s wireless expertise will truly enable the Joint All-Domain Operations battlespace our customers envision,” said Rod Makoske, chief engineer and senior vice president of engineering and technology at Lockheed Martin. “Leveraging commercial 5G technologies with military-grade enhancements will let customers field, scale and deploy this technology faster and in more operational environments.”
For more information, visit www.lockheedmartin.com/5G and http://www.verizon.com/about/our-company/5g.
Amid all the chatter about how “5G has arrived” and the constant barrage of news bytes that 5G will change the world and has hit new data speeds, yada, yada, yada, comes a reality check from an unlikely media source in the computer world – PCMag (PCRag, as I like to call it).
PCMag is a consumer pub that spends more time doing happy camper surveys between ads about curing dementia and toenail fungus. It likes to talk about things such as who is the fastest internet provider, tips and tricks on Windows optimization, kicking your kids off of Wi-Fi, and finding hidden secrets of apps like Tic Toc and Facebook, rather than providing serious discussions about wireless technology. Every once in a while, it does seem to hit a 5G nail on the head. In this case, PCMag commented on a Finnish report that noted reliable and somewhat pervasive 5G will not arrive before 2027.
I have been hard on the industry hype that claims any real presence of 5G. Sure, deployment and coverage of 5G will become increasingly visible in what I like to call islands, as the rollout proceeds. However, these islands will only offer limited footprints for some time to come. But, as the PCMag journalist pointed out, being able to use 5G for your primary communications network, consistently, is years away.
How one sees 5G is subjective and depends upon a number of factors, just like how one sees quantum computing (QC). Yes, we have a couple of — if one stretches the envelope — quantum computers. They are housed in a sterile environment kept at zero degrees Kelvin. They are highly susceptible to movement, vibration, even looing at it with an evil eye, and must be kept in extremely stable environments. Under these conditions, they do function as quantum computers. In reality, depending upon with whom one speaks, opinions vary from “yes, we have” to “practical quantum computing” is likely a couple of decades off (Gartner, expes at least 10 more years of hype, according to a recent report). However, the unqualified answer to that question is no, we do not have real QC now.
This kind of pushing the envelope is commonplace. Not just with QC, but also with platforms such as wireless, autonomous vehicles and smart X, as well as technologies such as dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) virtualization, software-defined networking (SDN) and O-RAN. In all of these cases, we can say it has arrived, but as well, in all of these cases, the technology or platform is nascent.
Porting that to 5G, if we had listened to the hypsters, we have had 5G since 2019. Do you remember AT&T’s attempt to sell 5G by issuing phone updates that changed the 4G icon to 5GE? Over the last year or so, we have deployed 5G, but only as non-standalone (NSA).
However, these deployments are isolated islands of 5G, with minimal performance (read: performance is not much better than 4G). Does that mean we have 5G? Or does having 5G mean we have the ubiquitous 5G deployments and performance hitting the hype that has been levied these past couple of years? Add to that the fact that only 4 percent of respondents in a Morgan Stanley report said they would switch carriers to access new technologies like 5G. To me, this does not sound like we have 5G.
Another set of financials released by Elisa, a wireless carrier in Finland, on the operator’s 5G launch said it made $3.50 per month per customer from 5G. However, the details are sketchy, and the report does not break down that number further.
Most carriers, globally, are calling 5G a success and throwing out figures and hype that make it sound like 5G is on a fast track. Perhaps that is true in countries like Korea and China, but in the western hemisphere, carriers are simply exaggerating what the numbers really mean. And the hype continues.
Although it is old news now, recall when T-Mo got caught exaggerating claims of 5G being nationwide. Also, remember the National Advertising Division of BBB National Programs examined some of T-Mobile’s claims about having the best 5G network and found that they were potentially misleading to customers.
T-Mo does have a good dispersion of 5G at the lower frequencies they use. However, the benefits of 5G are not as spectacular in lower frequencies as they are at frequencies with more available bandwidth (above 6 GHz). Hence, while T-Mo may cover 200 million people, that coverage is qualified with location — not everywhere or all the time — and performance. Typically, T-Mo’s 5G at these frequencies only comes in at just over 100 Mbps. Although that is a two-to-three-times improvement over typical 4G data speeds (~35 Mbps), it is not nearly the super-speeds of the hype — although that may change somewhat when they bring the midband spectrum they acquired from the merger with Sprint online.
Other carriers, such as AT&T and Verizon, are working at mmWave frequencies. These do deliver significantly faster speeds. However, we are all aware of the propagation and penetration shortcomings of mmWave in large-area coverage and building penetration. Therefore, they are more working with siloed deployments in dense, high-traffic areas in cities, stadiums and, soon, airports, campuses and other similar footprint areas. Where these limited mmWave networks are deployed, the speeds are impressive — anywhere from 600 Mbps to 1.5 Gbps in the most stellar installations. Yet, in other than a few shining examples, the hype still continues.
Okay, circling back to the issue of do we or do we not have 5G — IMHO, as with QC, the unqualified answer is no, and the qualified answer is yes, but it is still nascent. I tend to agree that it will be years before we can say we have a 5G network that meets the expected performance of the 3GPP specs and does so with a large enough global footprint so much of the time the user has access to it.
The best perspective comes from an observation that emerged from the recent Brooklyn 6G Summit. The overall consensus was that 5G has a long way to go, with much that needs to be learned and applied in 5G, before we tackle 6G. That knowledge base will be what shapes the future beyond 5G (B5G), years from now.
Ernest Worthman is an executive editor with AGL Media Group.
Private mobile edge compute with AWS Outposts has become available for U.S. enterprise customers, according to Verizon. The company said its 5G Edge with AWS Outposts cloud computing platform brings compute and storage services to the edge of the network on the customer premises. It enables the massive bandwidth and low latency needed to support real-time enterprise applications like intelligent logistics, factory automation and robotics, Verizon said. Verizon’s On Site 5G and private edge platform, the company said, enterprises also gain operational efficiencies, higher levels of security and reliability, and improved productivity.
“By bringing compute and storage services to the edge of the network on the customer premises, we’re providing enterprises with the low lag and high bandwidth needed to process information in near real time so they can gain actionable data-driven insights and optimize their operations,” said Tami Erwin, Verizon Business CEO. “Through our partnership with AWS, we are helping customers unlock the true potential of 5G and edge computing, which together will enable innovative applications involving computer vision, augmented and virtual reality, and machine learning. We are just scraping the surface of the new experiences that will be enabled by having 5G and edge compute on site.”
On Site 5G and 5G Edge with AWS Outposts gives manufacturers the near real-time responsiveness that enables applications such as predictive maintenance and robotics for improved productivity and quality, Verizon said. Corning, a materials science and advanced manufacturing innovator, is using Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Outposts and On Site 5G to enhance innovation at one of the world’s largest fiber-optic cable plants, the company said. Verizon said that the two companies are experimenting with high-speed, high-volume data collection on the factory floor, quality assurance and on-premises inference using machine learning.
Michael A. Bell, senior vice president and general manager at Corning Optical Communications, said, “We believe 5G will revolutionize the way people and companies interact with technology.” He said that Corning is advancing developments in its own plant, where the company manufactures the optical fiber cable needed to support the networks. Bell said that with Corning making use of Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Outposts, it “can improve safety, precision and efficiency as we explore the potential of 5G and private mobile edge computing.”
According to a statement from Verizon, enterprises in many industries can benefit from having a completely dedicated private network and edge compute infrastructure on premises.
“On Site 5G and 5G Edge with AWS Outposts can enable the ability to connect and manage a broad range of devices at scale and speed while also providing highly secure, near real-time connectivity,” the statement reads. “This will allow companies to bring new services to market faster than before, customize customer experiences and unlock greater value from data, while meeting low-latency and data residency requirements.”
Verizon said that its work with AWS on edge computing began in August 2020 with the launch of Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength, a public edge compute platform that embeds AWS compute and storage services within Verizon’s public wireless networks. Together, the company said, these provide mobile edge computing infrastructure for customers to develop, deploy and scale up ultra-low-latency applications. Verizon said there are 13 Wavelength Zones in the United States, with more to come this year.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs 2021 Communacopia Virtual Conference today SBA Communications President and CEO Jeffrey A. Stoops said his company has optimism about 2022. He talked about SBA’s leases, its deal with Dish, its C-Band agreement with Verizon and technology that will sustain company growth into the foreseeable future.
“The big picture for why we have had sustained levels of activity should continue,” Stoops said. “The reasons are pretty straightforward: the emergence of Dish building out a nationwide wireless network. It is also the material increase in the amount of macro activity we’re beginning to see from Verizon, obviously triggered by the C-Band auction.”
Stoops said that he believes that SBA has entered the sustainable part of the 5G cycle. “All of the four nationwide customers, including Dish, are all heavily engaged with projects that are going to extend for quite some period of time,” he said. “I feel very good about this new level of activity being sustainable for the foreseeable future.”
Stoops said he is highly confident about long-range new-lease signings — although he said he doesn’t believe that SBA’s signings in 2021 will reach the level the company achieved in 2019. “I think we hit a certain level in Q2 — and that level is being sustained, with the opportunity for continued upward bias in terms of backlog and activity,” he said. “I’m talking about activity going on around the company and out in the field right now—and that really translates into lease signings. The financial results from activity will lag the benefits from that activity. So, it feels pretty good right now — as we move toward the end of the year, we’re not seeing anything from a project perspective. We’re very optimistic about 2022.”
Last month, SBA reported second-quarter results that included a net income of $152.7 million or $1.37 per share, AFFO per share growth of 15.3 percent over the prior year period, and revenue of $575.5 million. The company raised its outlook for 2021, adjusting funds from operations of $10.32 to $10.72 per share and revenue of $2.26 billion to $2.30 billion. At the time, Stoops said he believed the second quarter was the start of a multiyear business expansion for both tower builders and carriers — and that the next two quarters would increase sequentially.
“Our second-quarter performance was our best in quite some time,” Stoops said at Communacopia. “U.S. wireless carrier activity increased substantially in the quarter. Domestically, we produced record services revenue, we had the highest revenue added per tower based on signed leases and amendments since 2014, and our leasing and services backlogs were at multiyear highs at quarter end. While this increased leasing activity will benefit our reported 2021 revenue, the majority of the incremental revenue will begin to be recognized in 2022.”
Reflecting on the C-Band agreement SBA signed with Verizon in April, Stoops said he sees a lot of win-wins. Verizon paid $45.45 billion for an average of 161 megahertz of C-band spectrum nationwide in an April FCC auction, which will allow Verizon to offer increased mobility and broadband services to millions more consumers and businesses.
The C-Band is a mid-band spectrum that provides a middle ground between capacity and coverage and will allow Verizon to offer both increased mobile 5G coverage and home broadband services to millions more consumers and businesses. Because the C-Band spectrum requires new network equipment to be placed on existing towers, Verizon sought additional agreements with SBA and Crown Castle, which both already host Verizon infrastructure equipment.
About the SBA deal with Verizon, Stoops said that both parties look for kind of the same thing in such a deal. “They both look for a certain word — though sometimes from different metrics — and that word is ‘certainty’; certainty in terms of term, certainty in terms of volume. Those are things that are important to a tower company. And then on the customer side, certainty in terms of rate. And the ability to plan. So, when those things come together and they can be agreed to, terms can be agreed to in a mutually attractive and accessible manner—then they get done. And that’s exactly what happened with Verizon.”
Stoops said that the Verizon/SBA master license agreement (MLA) provided efficiency and eliminated different types of red-tape issues. “That will allow us to move quicker,” he said. “And what it basically did was provide both parties with a greater sense of partnership of working together, which has freed up all kinds of activities and avenues for us to keep working together. So, when you get the basics right in terms of certainty and terms, and there’s a mutual meeting of the minds, we’re very much in favor of MLAs.”
Stoops added this about C-Band and Verizon: “Verizon is getting out there ahead of when the spectrum is clear, but whether it’s this quarter or next, it’s becoming clear that C-Band is going to be a heavily macro-tower—and those of us in the industry who focus in that area will benefit.”
Stoops had this to say about new leases and Dish: “We are in a bit of a new paradigm for the next couple of years as Dish builds out because it is all going to be brand new leases. New leases are always good. And he made this comment about the recent $5 billion deal Dish made with AT&T in July to move Dish’s wireless customer traffic to AT&T’s network: “The bottom line is a more viable financially stronger Dish, which I believe this makes them, with AT&T, is good for our industry.”
Meanwhile, Stoops also took the time to address mobile edge computing. “We continue to believe that that is an area that is going to be high demand and very attractive for years to come,” he said. “I think we have five units now constructed and operating. We have been able to provide some synergies between those units and are two data centers — and that’s another area in which we see real possibility. I think it’s got a long way to go. I think you need to see some applications out in the consumer world, but it’s coming.”
Mike Harrington is a contributing editor