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Sprint, Verizon Join Smart Cities Laboratories

By The Editors of AGL

In the last week, Sprint has opened the Curiosity IoT and 5G proving ground at Peachtree Corners, Georgia; and Verizon turned on its 5G Ultra Wideband network at the Mcity test facility at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Curiosity laboratory promises a “real-world smart city infrastructure” and 5G connectivity to enable companies to test cloud AI, robots and autonomous vehicle technology, among other things. The living laboratory, which includes a 1.5-mile autonomous test track located within an existing 500-acre technology park, enables companies to develop and test emerging technologies with live smart city infrastructure, next-generation connectivity amid real-world conditions.

The companies involved include Local Motors, an autonomous passenger shuttle; CloudMinds: a humanlike service robot with AI in the cloud; Softbank Robotics autonomous floor cleaner; Autonodyne Autonomous Drone, Valqari Drone and “Mailbox” Landing Pad; Georgia Power Smart Light Poles; Reef Kitchens Delivery-Only Kitchen Solution; and Kia Autonomous Vehicle

Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband Network at Mcity Test Facility

Verizon is working with Mcity to advance transportation safety and shape the future of autonomous vehicles and smart cities using 5G. Adding Verizon 5G to the Mcity Test Facility required installing 5G-connected cameras at every intersection inside the facility to help identify traffic and pedestrian patterns to prevent collisions. While connected cars have sensors that can “talk” to each other to help avoid accidents, cameras connecting to traffic light signals can help protect people walking or biking. The 5G-connected cameras were installed by Econolite. Verizon and Econolite are members of Mcity’s Leadership Circle of industry partners.

Verizon Prepares to Take Public Safety into 5G Era

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

If one wasn’t convinced that Verizon was serious about public safety before, seeing the carrier’s efforts at last week’s International Wireless Communications Expo held last week in Las Vegas would have sealed the deal. Sure, there have been signs, like when it aired a $5.3 million public safety ad on the Super Bowl, but at IWCE the carrier had the second largest booth on the show floor and Justin Blair, executive director – wireless business products, Verizon Wireless Business Products, served as a keynote speaker.

The first sign that Verizon was going to compete with FirstNet head on came back when the carrier turned on its virtual public safety core in March 2018, the same month AT&T’s FirstNet broadband network core went online.

As for Blair, his presentation did not disappoint. He started his keynote at the IWCE with a simple video showing a live demonstration of priority preemption on a Verizon network, which was nice and not accidentally set across the street from the World Trade Center in New York City, site of the terrorist attack that launched the movement that led to FirstNet. But he finished it off with a bang, talking about how Verizon was going to bring 5G to public safety. Verizon officially one-upped AT&T, which had committed to building out FirstNet as a 4G LTE network.

Blair challenged the audience to forget about current restrictions on data speeds and “think about the future of infrastructure,” where networks will support multi-gigabit speeds.

“How can you do your job better? 5G is going to allow you to do it faster,” Blair said. “On the 4G network, we have been able to achieve peak speeds 1.45 gigabits per second. That’s mind blowing, but a 5G network is going to allow those types of speeds all the time no matter how many radios are on the network, eventually 10 gigabits per second.”

Blair noted that multi-access edge computing is important so that first responders can process data on the edge of the network, instead of on mobile devices, where battery power is precious.

“You will be able to move the insights, not all the raw data, where it needs to go,” Blair said. “As you think about building a 5G network, it is important know that 5G is not just a new protocol, the one after 4G. 5G is an actual network experience. It is all about faster speeds and lower latency, but you can’t do that without software defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV) and edge computing.”

SDN and NFV will allow agencies to quickly deploy services, such as mission critical push to talk. Patching a security breech also be accomplished more quickly.  Blair encouraged the audience to explore how to get their applications into a virtualized environment at the edge of the 5G network.

“If you are not thinking about virtualization, you need to be,” Blair said. “Dream Big. Don’t think about the restrictions you have today with 4G or Wi-Fi. They will go away when we get to 5G.”

Verizon has several 5G labs, including a first responder lab in Washington, D.C., which is an incubator for local innovators to grow the 5G ecosystem. Running the lab is a company called ResponderXLabs, which was launched by Amazon Web Services Responder Corp in August 2018 to bring companies together to develop cutting-edge technology for first responders. The goal is to have 15 new technologies available this year.

“Together, we explore the boundaries of 5G network technology, co-create new applications and hardware, and rethink what’s possible in a 5G world,” according to the web site of ResponderXLabs.

Electronics 360 reports that five companies have been chosen by the lab so far, including Adcor Magnetic Systems for sensors and digital 3D environments; Blueforce Development for situational awareness; Kiana Analytics for real-time location, Qwake Technologies for augmented reality; and Aerial Applications for drones.

“Qwake Technology is doing something really, really cool,” Blair said. “We demonstrated their product, known as C-Thru, at the Mobile World Congress last week, and it allows a firefighter to see in a dark, smoke-filled room.”

Verizon has All the Answers to mmWave

By Ernest Worthman, AWT Executive Editor and IEEE Senior Member

I just got a feed about Qualcomm’s Tech Summit in Hawaii. As I read through it, I saw the remarks by Nicki Palmer, Verizon’s chief network engineering officer, about how great Verizon is.

This is the kind of grade-school banter that goes back and forth between carriers all the time. “I’m first, no I’m better, uh-uh mine works better than yours.” Does the industry really think that consumers care about these kind of statements? And are they supposed to intimidate each other?

I have been discussing this for a while now. In the December issue of Applied Wireless Technology,my column editorializes about the consumer’s excitement around 5G. There is some interesting data in support of that, in the column, so I believe it is worth a read.

My take in this editorial is that Palmer’s statements at the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Tech Summit in Maui show just how egotistical individuals and organizations can be. “I have nothing else to say to the skeptics, she said. “You can catch up when you’re ready. By pushing this technology out as early as possible, there is a first mover advantage.” Really Verizon? You think you are all that and everybody else is just hanging laundry? Just because you say so does not make it so.

I am known for taking strong positions. I have been in this industry over 30 years, both as an engineer and an editor. I know many outstanding individuals, and companies, and have a deep respect for them. I also know any number of same, who are not quite so humble and professional. However, given the record of carriers doing all kinds of nefarious acts and “embellishing” (I am being kind here) on the truth, I find this kind of chest thumping extremely arrogant. This time it just happens to be Verizon.

Point-to-point/multipoint fixed wireless is a no-brainer. We have had this at mmWave frequencies for years – VSAT, E-band, W-band, etc. We have a deep well of understanding up to 100 GHz, even beyond. We all know that the first use cases for 5G will be fixed wireless. Marrying high-frequency mmWave to 5G mobile is where the rubber really meets the road. (Why do you think that much of the early mobile 5G action will be at existing frequencies and below 6 GHz?).

Now, all that aside, I think 5G fixed wireless is a great way to get early deployments of 5G out there and put some data in the experience bucket – maybe even generate RoI. To get 5G fixed wireless will simply mean upgrading or changing out existing hardware for 5G NR 3GPP hardware. The propagation models are known and there is plenty of bandwidth at these higher mmWave frequencies. So pounding on ones chest about 5G fixed wireless is, IMHO, much ado about nothing.

There is, of course, the entire NR network metrics. This is new territory in many areas. But given the understanding of mmWave, fixed wireless should be the perfect platform to integrate, tweak and hone our understanding of how 5G technologies will work in mmWave.

There will be a lot of fixed wireless 5G coming in the next year. And, there are plenty of use cases available for it. I feel it will start generating RoI pretty quickly after it is deployed.

However, as far as Verizon goes, if they really think they are the only ones with 5G fixed wireless, it will be interesting to watch them eat crow as everybody else does what they are doing.

Verizon Heralds Beginning of ‘5G Era,’ AT&T Says it Has the Lead

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

We talk a lot about the 5G race with China, South Korea and Japan. But how are the U.S. carriers faring against each other? AT&T and Verizon threw down the gauntlet for next gen deployment right here in the United States during their third quarter earnings calls.

Verizon’s third quarter was highlighted by installations of its proprietary fixed 5G Home wireless service, and the continued enhancement of the fiber and small cells of its 4G LTE network. Verizon’s fixed wireless service successfully trods upon the turf of cablecos using millimeter wave spectrum to provide in-home Internet at wireline broadband speeds and capacity.

“The initial launch of 5G Home in four markets will lead to a larger rollout in 2019,” said Matthew Ellis, Verizon executive vice president and chief financial officer. “We are gaining valuable insights ahead of the industry that will drive refinements to the customer experience prior to the arrival of global standards-based equipment.”

While 5G is the buzz — the term was used 40 times according to the Seeking Alpha earnings call transcript while LTE was uttered twice — Verizon noted the importance of LTE to the near future. “Our 4G LTE network will continue to be a foundation of our services for many years to come,” Ellis said.

During the quarter, Verizon completed an end-to-end global standards compliant call with a smartphone test device using its network in Minneapolis. “We have said all along that we intend to be first not only in launching the world’s initial 5G commercial product but also the first to deliver true 5G mobility to consumers,” Ellis said.

Ellis said Verizon has been preparing its network for 5G through the deployment of fiber resources, small cells, spectrum and mobile edge computing capabilities. Year-to-date capital spending of $12.0 billion was up from $11.3 billion YTD last year. Capital expenditure for the full year is expected to be between $16.6 billion and $17.0 billion.

“As soon as devices and equipment are available the deployment of our 5G network on the global standard will begin for mobility and residential broadband in the new 5G ultra-wideband era,” Ellis said, “At Verizon, we believe that true 5G requires an ultra-wideband solution, utilizing millimeter wave spectrum to address the full array of use cases that 5G enables.”

In late October, Verizon committed $25 million to build a “technologically advanced wireless network” in the Florida Panhandle as it struggles to recover from Hurricane Michael.  5G technology will be a part of that infrastructure, and Panama City will become one of five announced Verizon 5G cities, joining Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento.

AT&T building on ‘our lead in 5G’

However, AT&T believes it has the lead in 5G, John M. Donovan, CEO AT&T Communications said during the carrier’s Q3 earnings call, and it will be introducing standards-based mobile 5G services in the next few weeks and in parts of a dozen cities by the end of the year. Additionally, the 5G mobile will be deployed in seven more cities in early 2019.

Donovan said the foundation has been put into place by 5G trials that were completed in several cities and the deployment of a fiber network, which will pass 14 million consumers and eight million businesses by mid-2019.

AT&T’s 5G Evolution will be in more than 400 markets by the end of the year with nationwide coverage by mid-2019 and theoretical peak speeds reaching 400 megabits per second. AT&T also plans to launch LTE Licensed Assisted Access in parts of 24 cities by the end of the year, which will be transitioned to 5G and can deliver faster speeds than LTE.

AT&T still plans to use a one-touch tower deployment solution, which combines FirstNet climbs to deploy Band 14 with other spectrum additions, 700 MHz, AWS-3, and WCS on radios that can be upgraded to 5G through a software change.

“We’re climbing towers and adding spectrum all at once. We’re also adding new radio capability, which will enable us to upgrade the tower to 5G, without another tower climb,” Donovan said. “Thanks in part to our FirstNet build, our fallow spectrum is being put into service at a rapid rate. We’re on track to increase the amount of spectrum deployed by nearly 50 percent. This is having a dramatic positive impact on our network.”

So who is leading the “race” to 5G? Joe Madden, Mobile Experts, said comparing AT&T and Verizon is a bit of an apples and oranges situation.

“Verizon is the first to deploy a high-capacity radio network, but the Verizon system does not use the 5G NR format.  Instead, Verizon has chosen a proprietary format for fixed wireless access which is not compatible with 5G NR,” Madden said. “AT&T is deploying their first 5G commercial networks later than Verizon, but the AT&T network is compatible with 5G NR.  “In my opinion, the AT&T approach is “ahead” of Verizon because they are in a better position to support mobile 5G with their network.

T-Mobile, Too

Last February, T-Mobile announced its plan to build out 5G in 30 cities nationwide using its 600 MHz and 28 GHz spectrum by the end of the year. The carrier followed with a multi-year, $3.5 billion contract with Nokia in July to deploy a nationwide network with end-to-end 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) technology, software and services. In September, another contract was signed for 3GPP-compliant 5G NR equipment with Ericsson, also worth $3.5 billion.

“5G will be amazing, and we can’t even imagine all the cool stuff it will bring, just like with our earlier network innovations. That’s why truly mobile 5G has to be nationwide — period, the end,” said T-Mobile CEO John Legere.

T-Mobile expects to deploy 5G in its low-band 600 MHz spectrum across its existing nationwide macro network. “Nationwide Mobile 5G will require both high-band AND broad low-band coverage, and having unused nationwide 600 MHz spectrum means T-Mobile is in an ideal position to deliver,” T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said.

5G Dual-mode Radios for Sprint, Courtesy of Nokia

Sprint’s Massive MIMO technology is capable of delivering up to 10 times the capacity of current LTE systems and delivering a 5G solution when it deploys the technology next year. This year, Sprint began deploying its Massive MIMO technology in several cities, including Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York where the company plans to launch mobile 5G service starting in the first half of 2019.

Next year, dual-mode radios may usher in the era of 5G wireless communications for Sprint customers. At Mobile World Congress Americas, last Spring, Nokia and Sprint demonstrated a 5G NR connection that used a dual-mode-capable radio and a massive MIMO antenna. The antenna is designed to achieve as much as 3 Gbps peak downlink throughput for a single sector over 5G and LTE simultaneously using Sprint’s radio-frequency (RF) spectrum.

Sprint’s chief technology officer, John Saw, said the company has enough (RF) spectrum to operate LTE and 5G simultaneously on the same radios. Sprint’s extensive spectrum acquisitions at FCC auctions seem to be paying off.

Verizon Network Braces for Hurricane Florence

By Kate Jay

As Florence rapidly intensifies into a major hurricane, Verizon is well prepared to serve its customers in the southeastern U.S. with the nation’s largest and most reliable 4G LTE network should Hurricane Florence make landfall later this week.

Final fine-tuning measures are underway and local Network teams also are prepared to travel the coast to assist areas hit hardest by the storm. The efforts are part of a year-round plan to make the network strong and reliable during storms and any other circumstances.

Network enhancements in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and across the Southeast Coast since last year’s storm season include:

  • expanding and densifying the most advanced 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network
  • adding capacity to hundreds of cell sites
  • fortifying coverage along major roadways
  • putting cell site equipment on stilts to avoid damage due to flooding
  • and installing new in-building network systems at hospitals, government and emergency facilities, high-traffic public venues and other key locations

In addition, the company has a number of “switch” network processing centers across the southeast. With hardened shells, these facilities also feature large-scale on-site power generation, various redundant operations and technologies, and other back-up systems to ensure the company’s network remains strong, running and reliable.

Other Verizon Wireless ongoing efforts to ensure a reliable network include:

  • preparing emergency command centers in the case of a storm or other crisis
  • readying the company’s fleet of mobile equipment including of Cells on Wheels (COWS), Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), and generators on a trailers (Goats) that can be rolled into hard-hit locations or areas that need extra network capacity
  • pre-arranging fuel delivery to mobile units and generators to keep the network operating at full strength even if commercial power is lost for an extended period of time
  • topping off and testing generators and battery backups in cell sites
  • coordinating with local, state and federal emergency services so they have the communications services they need
  • pre-positioning emergency equipment, setting up our local switch location to house our 24×7 command center
  • using the newest technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to survey tower damage after a storm.

As part of Verizon’s ongoing commitment to those on the front lines of public safety, all speed caps restrictions have been lifted for first responders in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. In addition, the Verizon Response Team (VRT) has already began providing items like mobile hotspots and phones to public safety and other support teams to make sure they can stay connected, as well pre-staging charging stations and disaster response trailers for deployment where the need will be greatest. VRT is available 24/7/365 and frequently provides assistance during disaster situations.

Kate Jay is in media relations for Verizon.