Turns out AT&T’s 5G E is just LTE-A after all

Network measurer OpenSignal has had a look at the performance subscribers are getting from AT&T’s whizzy new 5G Evolution service and it’s nothing special.

“Analyzing Opensignal’s data shows that AT&T users with 5G E-capable smartphones receive a better experience than AT&T users with less capable smartphone models, for example those with an LTE Category below 16,” wrote OpenSignal Analyst Ian Fogg. “But AT&T users with a 5G E-capable smartphone receive similar speeds to users on other carriers with the same smartphone models that AT&T calls 5G E. The 5G E speeds which AT&T users experience are very much typical 4G speeds and not the step-change improvement which 5G promises.”

In other words there’s nothing special going on. If you’ve got a phone that supports LTE-Advanced you’re going to get around 29 Mbps download speed regardless of whether your operator cheekily rebrands it on your phone screen. Unless you’re on Sprint, however, which has a best effort of around 20 Mbps (see table).

Opensignal 5GE table

AT&T was universally mocked when its bright idea of rebranding LTE-A at 5G E first emerged. Sprint, of all companies, even decided to call the lawyers in to challenge the claimed deception, but AT&T continues to insist it was a great idea. Its marketing department presumably won’t be thanking OpenSignal for this latest revelation, but what did they expect?

Vodafone CEO bemoans Jio effect on India

The Indian consumer might be surging into the digital economy at an unprecedented speed, but the telcos are certainly not reaping the rewards according to Vodafone CEO Nick Read.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Read pointed towards consumers which are consuming more data every single day (12 GB a month on average), as well as unsustainable business models and regulations which favour no-one except the disruptive influence of Jio. It isn’t necessarily a picture which creates an encouraging view of the market.

“We only ask for a level playing field,” said Read, bemoaning regulatory and competition rulings made in the country.

It seems Reid believes there has been an institutional preference towards the newest entrant into the Indian telco regime. This is also a company which is forcing the market to create artificially low tariffs, an unsustainable position for the market to maintain. What impact this has on the long-term prospects of India’s digital dream remain to be seen.

While it is hardly unusual for the CEO of a losing telco to moan about unfair market conditions, there have been some credible points made. Jio did certainly disrupt the market, helping the country move into the digital era, but there was certainly consequence. The aggressively low tariffs saw numerous telcos exit the space, either closing-down operations, merging with a rival or declaring bankruptcy.

Vodafone was one of those victims, currently in the process of merging its operations with long-term rival Idea Cellular. Reid highlighted he has been over to India to review the plans recently, and the team has managed to reduce the integration process from four years to two, but it is still losing money. That said, it is not alone.

The issue which remains here is what happens if this trend of Jio destruction is allowed to continue. How many more telcos will disappear from the landscape (there are only effectively four left, including government owned BSNL) before the government steps in to do something. The current position is not exactly ideal.

As it stands, India currently have four major telcos to provide connectivity services for roughly 1.3 billion people. Europe has roughly 160 telcos for a population of 500 million. Although many would argue there needs to be consolidation in the European space, the shortage of options in India is not exactly ideal. The risk of regionalised monopolies is certainly present.

Of course, the newly merged Vodafone Idea business is not lying down while Jio runs riot throughout India, Reid highlighted a Rights Issue is currently underway with the business hoping to raise $3.5 billion. Not only will this help the businesses merge and update infrastructure, it would be fair to assume some pretty aggressive counter-strikes against Jio.

India is one of the most interesting markets worldwide right now, but there is certainly a risk of the landscape devolving into chaos. Whether the Indian government is sympathetic to Reid’s plight remains to be seen, though current trends should not be allowed to continue.

Ericsson doubles cellular IoT forecast

In its latest Mobility Report, Ericsson has doubled its forecast for cellular IoT connections since its last guess in November 2017.

The networking vendor now reckons there will be 3.5 billion IoT connections by 2023, driven mainly by China. Unsurprisingly those connections are expected to be mostly of the NB-IoT variety, with a bit of Cat-M1 thrown in. Apparently over 60 cellular IoT networks have already been launched worldwide, with North America focusing on logistics, while China is more into smart cities and smart agriculture.

Ericsson Mobility Report June 2018 IoT

Moving on to 5G Ericsson notes that the first 5G commercial rollouts are expected later this year and the whole thing should ramp pretty quickly after that. North America looks set to be first but things will really pick up once China gets involved soon after. By end of 2023, almost 50% of all mobile subscriptions in North America are forecast to be for 5G, followed by North East Asia at 34%, and Western Europe at 21%.

Ericsson Mobility Report June 2018 5G devices

Fredrik Jejdling, Executive Vice President and Head of Business Area Networks, says: “2018 is the year 5G networks go commercial as well as for large-scale deployments of cellular IoT,” said Fredrik Jejdling, EVP and Head of Business Area Networks at Ericsson. “These technologies promise new capabilities that will impact people’s lives and transform industries. This change will only come about through the combined efforts of industry players and regulators aligning on spectrum, standards and technology.”

As ever there are a bunch of other stats in the report, tracking current mobile connection levels as well as anticipating future ones. They mainly reinforce known trends such as the fact that nearly all growth is coming from Asia and that video is increasingly dominating data traffic. This chart showing the evolution of LTE-A across global networks is quite interesting.

Ericsson Mobility Report June 2018 LTE-A

Ericsson has a school reunion at Verizon

It was just like old times at Ericsson this week as a collaboration with Verizon meant it could catch up with ex alumni and reminisce about the good old days.

The stated reason for getting together was to dabble in a spot of FDD Massive MIMO over Verizon’s network in Irvine, California. The dynamic duo used 16 transceiver radio units supplied by Ericsson to whack out beams from 96 antenna elements over 20 MHz of AWS spectrum.

But we suspect the real reason was the opportunity for a few Ericsson execs to take Verizon Head of Networks Hans Vestberg and Verizon Chief Strategy Officer Rima Qureshi out on the piss in the name of ‘client relations’. The two had previously spent decades at Ericsson and have presumably still got loads of mates there, so what better opportunity will they have to talk about old times?

In an apparent bid to reinforce the Massive MIMO cover story, the resulting press release was careful to avoid bringing attention to the underlying reunion. “While continuing to drive 5G development, the deployment of Massive MIMO offers very tangible benefits for our customers today,” said Nicola Palmer, Chief Network Officer of Verizon Wireless, who hasn’t previously worked at Ericsson. “Our collaboration with Ericsson on this new deployment continues to drive industry-wide innovation and advancements.”

“Massive MIMO is a key technology enabler for 5G, but already today, 4G LTE service providers and end users can benefit from the superior capacity and network performance this technology enables,” said Niklas Heuveldop, Head of Market Area North America at Ericsson. “The current trial is an important step in the collaboration we have with Verizon to prepare their network for 5G.”

Since Ericsson hasn’t exactly been shy about letting people go over the past couple of years, staying close to Verizon would seem to be a smart contingency move for any of its employees. Verizon seems to have decided the best way to be less dependent of kit vendors is to build its own mini-Ericsson so we would be surprised if Vestberg and Qureshi were the last to make that move.