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Can 5G replace everybody's home broadband ?, Ars Technica

Can 5G replace everybody's home broadband ?, Ars Technica


Artist's impression of how fast your house might one day be with 5G mobile broadband.

Enlarge/Artist’s impression of how fast your house might one day be with 5G mobile broadband.

Aurich Lawson / Getty

When it comes to the possibility of home broadband competition, we want to believe. And in the case of 5G mobile broadband, wireless carriers want us to believe, too. But whether or not technological and commercial realities will reward that faith remains unclear. As with5G smartphones, the basic challenge here sits at the intersection of the electromagnetic spectrum and telecom infrastructure economics.

When delivered over millimeter-wave frequencies and their copious amounts of free spectrum, 5G can match the speed and latency of fiber-optic broadband, with downloads of 1 gigabit per second and ping times under milliseconds. But on those frequencies of GHz and up, signals struggle to reach more than a thousand feet outdoors . Carriers can fix that by building many more cell sites, each with its own fiber backhaul, but a fiber-to-the-block build-out may not be appreciably cheaper than fiber-to-the-home deployments. And while residences don’t move and don’t mind wireless antennas larger than a shirt pocket — unlike individual wireless subscribers — residences also have walls that often block mmWave signals. (Presumably also unlike individual wireless subscribers.)

The other frequency flavors of 5G (the low- and mid-band ones) don’t suffer mmWave’s allergies to distance or drywall. But they also can’t match its speed or its spectrum availability — which in the context of residential broadband means they may not sustain uncapped bandwidth.

So as much as residential customers might yearn for an alternative to their local telecom monopoly — or for any form of high-speed access besideslaggy connectivityfrom satellites in geosynchronous orbit — 5G doesn’t yet rank as a sure thing. There’s a promise, but many things still need to go right for that promise to be fulfilled.

Or, asNew Street Researchanalyst Jonathan Chaplin phrased things in an email : “If your fundamental question is ‘will 5G allow you to dump Comcast’ the answer is absolutely! Depending.”

Verizon’s bet on millimeter-wave broadband

Consider the

5G Home

service that Verizon Wireless launched in parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento

in October (later expanded to parts of Chicago).

At $ (a month for unlimited data — with a $ discount if you have a $ 29 or higher Verizon Wireless smartphone plan — and with download speeds from(to) ******************************************************** megabits per second, the service would compare well with cable even if so many cable internet plans did not includedata capsand slap on modem-rental fees.

Reddit threads about the service in Houston,Sacramentoand elsewhere offer a mix of praise for its performance (including reports of upload speeds in the range of 292 Mbps, significantly faster thanwhat most cable services offer) and complaints about it not being available at individual redditors’ addresses.

this Google Maps link. ” data-height=”1000 “data-width=” “href=” / / vz-5g-h.png “>Verizon's 5G Houston coverage as of December 4488, with 5G this Google Maps link. ” height=” “src=” / / vz-5g-h – (x) .png “width=” 836 “>

Enlarge/Verizon’s 5G Houston coverage as of December (**************************************, with 5G “Ultra Wideband” in dark pink. For an idea of ​​how much of the Houston metro this covers, you can zoom out from the same location atthis Google Maps link.

“Towards the beginning of service, there were a few firmware issues with the modem Verizon provided, but they patched that within a month,” said a software engineer in Sacramento who asked not to be named. “Since then, there’s not been significant downtime that I noticed.”

“Overall I’m happy with my 5G,” wrote another 5G Home user in Houston who runs a crisis-management firm. “No downtime that I can remember. I don’t have my exact speeds but it seems pretty quick. More than enough for my TV streaming and Web surfing.”

“There were only a few short (less than********************************** min?) cases of 5G service downtime that I can recall, and they were all mostly toward the beginning of my service, so I imagine they were able to fix those stability issues quickly enough, “wrote Vincent Garcia, a software engineer in Sacramento. “My speeds seem to be the same as when I first got the service: – Mbps down, – Mbps up.

Garcia noted one other benefit: “One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that other ISPs in my area seem to have stepped up their game in terms of value (at least in terms of their initial contract period

One early fear raised about millimeter-wave 5G, that it wouldsuffer from “rain fade”akin to what cuts out satellite-TV reception during showers, doesn’t yet appear to have emerged as a serious problem. Those Reddit discussions about Verizon’s service don’t mention it, whilea Twitter searchreveals no firsthand reports of rain-faded 5G.

Ashutosh Dutta, a research scientist at theHopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, pointed to a8501 studyby researchers at the Indian Institute of Information Technology Kalyani and the University of Calcutta’s Institute of Radio Physics and Electronics in West Bengal, India. They found that “proper fade mitigation techniques” can keep even heavy rain from disrupting millimeter-wave communication at frequencies up to GHz. Verizon’s 5G Home, at and (GHz) , sits on the forgiving side of that line.


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