News Feature | June 11, 2019

The Week in 5G: 6/11/2019 — Huawei To Handle Russia's 5G Rollout, U.S. FCC Auctions 24 GHz and 28 GHz Spectrum

By Ed Biller


Huawei remains at the center of the global 5G conversation this week after inking a deal with Russian telecom MTS to develop that country's next-generation cellular network over the next year. The Chinese telcom now has signed about 50 commercial 5G contracts in 30 countries around the world.

The U.S. is unlikely to be added to that list any time soon, given the Trump administration's effective ban on the Huawei blamed on security concerns stemming from the company’s cozy relationship with the Chinese government. This, despite Huawei Chairman Liang Hua stating last week he’d be willing to sign a "no-spy agreement" with the U.S.

Meanwhile, Finland’s Nokia is keeping pace with Huawei, claiming to have signed 42 commercial 5G deals around the world, as well as signing them at an increasing pace, reports CNN.

While the U.S. ban — and U.S. encouragement of allies to follow suit— may be slowing Huawei’s business slightly, the ban also risks slowing down countrywide 5G adoption in the U.S., putting the nation in a position to lag behind powers like Russia and China, writes CNN’s James Griffiths. Still, Trump bragged on CNBC’s Squawk Box this week that the U.S. will be the global leader in 5G “very shortly.” The president did not provide details to support his statement.

Perhaps smelling blood in the water, China’s government has green-lit its major state-owned carriers — China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Radio and Television — to begin 5G network rollouts ahead of the expected timeline. The endeavor also provides Huawei with an early base to use its equipment, reports CNBC.

British lawmakers have taken a cautious approach to dealing with Huawei. This week, John Suffolk, Huawei Global Cyber Security and Privacy Officer, is set to appear before the British Parliament’s Science and Tech Committee to answer questions on the “possible security risks involved with 5G communications,” reports Reuters.

Across the English Channel, Guillaume Poupard, head of the French cyber security agency, has said that Huawei won’t be allowed access to users’ location data, even if its equipment is utilized to aid France’s 5G network rollout, reports Bloomberg.

These nations’ measured approach is validated by a recent industry analysis’ findings that “a ban on buying telecoms equipment from Chinese firms would add about €55 billion ($62 billion) to the cost of 5G networks in Europe and delay the technology by about 18 months,” reports Reuters.

Part of Huawei’s appeal to its customers is low cost, which is among U.S. consumers’ greatest concerns surrounding 5G service. U.S. consumers pay some of the highest prices for wireless service in the developed world, and the situation appears primed to get worse, writes Karl Bode for Vice.

“Consumer experts say that between the death of net neutrality, ongoing consolidation in the space, and a Trump [Federal Communications Commission] FCC widely seen as a mindless rubber stamp for the wireless industry, there’s a perfect storm brewing that will hamper the real-world consumer benefits of 5G,” Bode wrote.

Another casualty of the race to 5G could be accurate weather forecasts, according to Neil Jacobs, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At currently proposed 5G power levels, satellites may have trouble reading natural signals given off by water vapor, reports Bloomberg.  

The FCC’s proposed 5G power levels could degrade forecast skills by as much as 30 percent, which could set back forecast accuracy to levels 40 years, Jacobs told Congress in May.

Nonetheless, the U.S. FCC remains full steam ahead in auctioning off spectrum for 5G usage, concluding its 24 GHz auction on May 28 and publishing last week the list of winning bidders from January’s 28 GHz auction.

In the 24 GHz auction, AT&T's acquired 831 licenses across 383 Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) for a total of $982.5 million. Those winning bids secured coverage across most of the U.S., as the FCC divides the country into 416 PEAs for purposes of the auction, and each license includes 100MHz of spectrum in the 24GHz band, reports arstechnica. T-Mobile fared comparably well, spending $803.2M for 1,346 licenses in 400 PEAs.

Other winning bids in the 24 GHz auction included US Cellular ($126.6M for 282 licenses in 102 areas), Starry ($48.5M for 104 licenses in 51 areas), and Windstream ($20.4M for 116 licenses in 40 areas).

In the 28 GHz auction that wrapped in January, Verizon’s winning bids totaled $505.7 million for 1,066 licenses, covering 863 of the 1,536 county-sized markets where licenses were auctioned. US Cellular placed winning bids of $129.4 million for 408 licenses in 362 markets, while T-Mobile dropped $39.3 million on 865 licenses in 864 areas.

As more auction is allocated — and demanded — for 5G, a battle already is being waged over the future of the C-Band (3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz), currently used by of satellite companies, TV providers, and others, mainly for video transmissions. The war pits the 5G industry, represented by the trade group CTIA, against broadcasting giants like Disney and Fox. 

In device news, Qualcomm And Lenovo have announced what they claim is the world’s first prototype 5G PC. Dubbed “Project Limitless,” the device “pairs Qualcomm’s newest processor for Windows, the 8cx, with the company’s newest LTE modem, the Snapdragon X55, to deliver 5G connectivity to a new iteration of Lenovo’s always-connected PC,” reports Forbes.

EE UK launched its 5G network at the end of May and now has four 5G phones available: an exclusive OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the Oppo Reno 5G, and the LG V50 ThinQ 5G. Vodafone plans to launch a competing 5G network some time in July, and UK telco Three plans to launch 5G home broadband in London by August, as well as roll out both mobile and home broadband 5G services across 25 UK cities by the end of the year, according to The Independent.

In India, Realme has announced that it will launch 5G smartphones in that nation once  5G networks are being rolled out, reports GSMArena.

In keeping with the company’s theme of “fake it ‘til you make it,” begun with the “5G LTE” indicator on its 4G smartphones, AT&T CEO Jon Donovan called the telcom “the world leader in 5G,” during a conference call last week — despite AT&T not having any 5G consumer devices on the market. Donovan may be basing the statement on AT&T’s claim that it has launched 5G commercial networks in 19 cities and hit 2 Gbps peak speeds in April, reports VentureBeat.

Meanwhile, Samsung has partnered with cloud-streaming game service Hatch to launch a 5G gaming app, reports CNET. The app is designed for use with the Galaxy S10 5G and is enabled for use with 5G mobile networks, including those launched by Sprint and Verizon in the U.S.