Mobile News w/o MWC

So MWC has been canceled. This is of course a very sad story, a big loss for a lot of people who worked hard preparing for it and of course an alarming virus.

One of the great things about the show is the amount of serendipity at the show. Walking down an aisle in a back hall of the show, we always find new and surprising products, technologies and companies.

We are doing our best to recreate that experience online, reaching out to companies for briefings by phone. It is not the same experience, but has the advantage of being a lot easier on our feet.

In the process, we have picked up some interesting news which we wanted to share here. It is too soon to come up with a big picture status of the industry but we have found a few interesting data points.

First, there is this thing called 5G. Apparently, it is going to be a big deal.

One of our chief goals for the show was to determine how the major equipment vendors are faring. Of course, the media has been focusing on Huawei, which seems to gaining a lot of headline wins. Less clear is how these deals split between core and access layers of the network. Given the political focus on the company from the US, one ‘compromise’ (we honestly are not sure what to call this) is to award the company wins for access gear (base stations, antennas, etc.) but to not give them seats at the core of the network (routers, switches, admin software). This has always struck us as more a marketing position than a meaningful security solution.

By the same token, Ericsson and Nokia, seem to be in better shape. Last year, it was clear their 5G gear was not ready. From what we can tell, this situation has improved, but we await word on just how much they have caught up. It also seems like Nokia has gained share at Ericsson’s expense, but we know from past experience that Ericsson can gain share much more quietly, and sometimes their strengths sneak up on us. Maybe.

Another important topic for us was going to be 5G mm Wave adoption. We have been very skeptical about this technology (and here). In that post we highlighted five challenges for mmWave systems. We can now add a new obstacle to that list – propagation. We already knew that mmWave RF signals to not travel very long distances, which means they will need a lot of small cells to provide basic coverage. Recently, we were reminded that mmWaves do not travel very well through large sacks of water also known as human bodies. Apparently, many early mmWave systems are seeing their capacity seriously reduced by people. If you stand in between your phone and the small cell, you will likely see greatly reduced coverage and data rates.

This raises some significant question about operators who have been promoting this technology most heavily, notably Verizon. Last year they were a leading voice promoting mmWave, but in recent months have become noticeably less vocal about it. Our strong suspicion remains that mmWave deployments get pushed out until 6G becomes a thing, which is still many years out.

We welcome your comments and encourage any company doing non-show briefings to contact us.

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