crushing competition 230Some facts and researched opinions. I've tried to be neutral but I have a pro-consumer bias. I've editorialized strongly against the deal.

Below: On the effects of 4-3; On whether 5G will come faster; "Combining is the only way they can fight back against the two industry leaders;" On whether Sprint could survive without the merger; On whether Sprint could survive without the merger; On whether the T-Mobile 5G is a "seismic shift;" 5G is not 5G: Much will not be the truly high speeds of millimeter wave; Is even the real 5G, millimeter wave, revolutionary?; "5G offers more reliability than 4G or LTE"; Is 5g required for autonomous cars?' Is 5G needed for telemedicine or IoT?

On the effects of 4-3 Tmo says prices will come down because of the deal. The best research is from Pal Zarandy at Rewheel, who just did a major study. He found prices were 40%-50% higher in Germany and Austria (4-3) than six others, including France. Gigabyte price development in 4 to 3 consolidated versus 4-MNO European markets – September 2013 to March 2018. Because France has so dramatically cut prices, my figure would be lower, "10%-20%, sometimes more." Canada & France went from 3 to 4 with large price drops, which are now happening in Italy. Dubious. Wireless prices will go down because the cost per bit is decreasing rapidly. They will probably be higher than without the deal.

On whether 5G will come faster "Do it all so much faster than either company could on its own,” Legere said in the release. T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray told MWC T-Mobile Building Out 5G in 30 Cities This Year ...and That’s Just the Start. He also committed to the entire country by 2020. My comment, admittedly snarky, is, "The only way the new T-Mobile could bring 5G faster is to build it in 2017." That would be difficult at this point. It's also unlikely to cover the whole country any earlier than 2020. Tmo VP Technology Karri Kuoppamaki last week emphasized how their 600 MHz spectrum will let them reach the whole country by 2020. Unlikely

"Combining is the only way they can fight back against the two industry leaders." Quote from Times. We all know how effectively T-Mobile has been competing. CEO Legere: "The T-Mobile team just keeps kicking the competition’s butt and bringing even more choices to consumers." "T-Mobile will be bigger wireless company than AT&T in 5 years.False, based on history and strong CEO comments.

On whether Sprint could survive without the merger Many, many statements by the top executives of Sprint on financial calls. If they were lying to Wall Street, they could be prosecuted. A close look at Sprint finances and networks would make clear that Sprint has deep problems but also plausible ways to fix them. (Craig Moffett, an analyst I learn from, disagrees.) "Sprint has posted ten consecutive quarters of postpaid net customer additions. It has also reversed its fortunes in the prepaid space, adding 63,000 in the third quarter." Unproven

On whether the T-Mobile 5G is a "seismic shift" “Going from 4G to 5G is like going from black and white to color TV. ... It’s a seismic shift — one that only the combined company can unlock nationwide to fuel the next wave of mobile innovation.” (Claure in the press release.) T-Mobile 4G in part of Manhattan is 500 megabits today. They have said they will roll that technology to 15,000 small cells. (LAA, 3-4 CA, 4x4 MIMO.) Is going from 500 megabit download to 600 megabit download going to change your experience that profoundly? That's the difference between T-Mobile's 4G LTE and "5G" NR. False

This week, T-Mobile Technology VP Karri Kuoppamaki said the 5G improvements would be much less than "seismic," something like 25%. That's less than the improvement when LTE added Carrier Aggregation four years ago, 4x4 MIMO in 2016, or 256 QAM in 2017. No one called them a new generation, In addition, the industry consensus is the advanced uses are far away. "The enhanced mobile broadband use case will be driving more than 99 percent of the 5G investments over the next five years." Stefan Pongratz. In other words, for at least five years, 5G will provide more network capacity but will be used in the same way as LTE.

"5G" is not "5G." Much will not be the truly high speeds of millimeter wave. Much of what is now called "5G" is a marketing invention in the last year, including T-Mobile's 600 MHz "5G." Low & mid-band "5G" is the same as 4G LTE with a software tweak (NR - New radio.) Only millimeter wave is much faster than 4G from 2018 equipment. mmWave can be 2-3 times faster than the LTE at 500 meg T-Mobile is rolling out. Verizon and AT&T are using millimeter wave, 28 & 39 GHz. T-Mobile is using 600 MHz & a pr campaign. A year ago, millimeter wave and perhaps Massive MIMO were considered 5G. (See IMT-2020 in standards.) In 2017, lobbyists and marketing people extended the definition of "5G" to anything with a software improvement that does little for speed or capacity. (NR) Corporate run 3GPP expanded the standard. Amazingly few reporters realized that meant most 5G deployments were nothing special. AT&T & Verizon are doing millimeter wave but low and mid-band will be 80% to 90% for at least several years. True

Is even the real 5G, millimeter wave, revolutionary? I have quotes rejecting the 5G hype from CEO, CTOs,, or other senior technical people at AT&T, Verizon, British Telecom, Deutsche Telecom, Orange and Telefonica. D.C. has fallen for spin. So have too many reporters. Professor Gerhard Fettweis, the leading expert, told a conference last week. "Autonomous cars will not use 5G because they have to work on all roads. They use radar and LIDAR instead." (Story to come.) VR, AR, and telemedicine are working well today without 5G. Remote surgery only needs 5G if doctors intend to work from the beach. (Ask me if you don't see that.) Nearly all the independent technical people see more and faster broadband as the primary use for 5G for years. That makes 5G important for the industry but definitely not world-changing. Unproven opinion

"5G offers more reliability than 4G or LTE" Washington Post. Reliability is planned for 5G URLLC (Ultra Reliable and Low Latency Communications.) The full standard for that isn't expected until late 2019 and wide deployment mostly long after. T-Mobile's nationwide "5G" network does not support URLLC and may never do so, Some engineers are dubious about whether the reliability will be achieved, so firm statements are probably dubious. While 5G may offer more reliability one day, using the present tense is an actual error. Unproven but likely

Is 5g required for autonomous cars? The very respected Professor Gerhard Fettweis from Dresden last week at a conference said, "Autonomous cars do not need 5G." They work on LIDAR and radar. 5G mmWave will not cover most roads for a decade or more. There will always be places not covered. Autonomous cars have to be able to work without 5G. IEEE has video of the session; I haven't written it up yet. At least one on the panel disagreed. I would recommend checking with an engineer currently active in the field before publishing on the topic. Many policy people are giving false information, mostly because they don't understand. Probably not, per authority

Is 5G needed for telemedicine or IoT?  The answer is probably not, but I don't have time to research and write it right now. Again, much of what's said is simply inaccurate; a newspaper we all respect made an error here. 

 

More to come. I'm always happy to share sources, files, and what I've learned with reporters or anyone making policy. I usually can provide a short soundbite if you need one. Do ask and no reciprocation necessary.

The world needs a good news source on Internet and telecom policy. I hope to create one. Catch a mistake? Email me please.  Dave Burstein

Latest

Professor Noam's "Many Internets" http://bit.ly/ManyNets

Until about 2010, everyone agreed the Net was a "network of networks," not a monolithic entity. There was a central authority, ICANN, keeping track of domain names, but that was a minor administrative function.
Columbia Professor Noam suggests we might be better off accepting that some nations or groups might want to organize their networks differently. It's easy to see demand for an Internet with much more effective filters against material some think harmful to children. (Any 10 year old can easily find porn today. Many do.)
Internet translation is getting better very quickly. You might want an "Internet" that translates everything into your language. Google Chrome translation isn't perfect but I was able to research most of this story on Russian language sites. With a few more years progress, I might welcome an alternate that brings me everything in English, including caching for better performance.
De facto, Internet news is already split, as hundreds of millions only get their news from Facebook. Google AMP pages, including for news, also favor selected parts of the net
Centralizing the DNS doesn't prevent censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. There are many Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who want to block what they consider blasphemy and limit free speech. See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/21/nyregion/ultra-orthodox-jews-hold-rally-on-internet-at-citi-field.html . More from Noam http://bit.ly/ManyNets

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System http://bit.ly/RussiaDNS
It's actually practical and not necessarily a problem.The Security Council of the Russian Federation, headed by Vladimir Putin, has ordered the "government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions ... This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." RT
Columbia University Professor Eli Noam and then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé have both said such a system is perfectly practical as long as there is robust interconnection.
Actually, the battle over ICANN and domain names is essentially symbolic. Managing the DNS is a relatively insignificant task, more clerical than governing. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker pointed out they had very little to do with policy.
Some will claim this is about blocking free speech but that's rhetoric. Russia doesn't need to fiddle with the DNS for censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. The wonders of the Internet will continue so long as the resulting nets" are robustly connected. The ICANN and U.S. policy goal should be to help create that system for interconnection.
I expect contentions that “The Russians are taking over our Internet” and “They are splitting the Internet.” The Internet is a “Network of Networks.” It is not a monolith so what would “splitting” it mean or do?
After the WCIT, China realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  The Chinese have put their main work where decisions that matter are made. Wireless standards are set by 3GPP, where nothing can be approved without China's consent.
The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake.
Why does Russia want an independent Internet?
They fear that Western sanctions on Russia could cripple the Russian Net. Communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, worries about, "a scenario where our esteemed partners would suddenly decide to disconnect us from the internet." I think that's highly unlikely but Nikiforov points out, “Recently, Russia is being addressed in a language of unilateral sanctions: first, our credit cards are being cut off; then the European Parliament says that they’ll disconnect us from SWIFT."
It makes sense for the Russians to be prepared for such a contingency as the Cold War has been warming up on both sides. "Britain's top military chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach just made headlines warning Russian subs "could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables." Much more http://bit.ly/RussiaDNS

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board http://bit.ly/CEOPromises
No wonder Russia wants an alternate root. Three years ago, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé promised "a seat at the table" to Chinese Premier Li. ICANN welched and this year added two more Americans.
Almost all the ICANN board is from the U.S. and close allies; only about 4 of the 18 board members are from countries on the other side of the North/South divide in Internet policy.  Claiming ICANN represents the Global Internet is inappropriate. China is 1/3rd of the Internet but has no representation on the board.
I know many of the board members. They are all basically honorable but generally share a strong opinion on North-South issues.
Larry Strickling of the U.S. government knew just what he was doing with the IANA transition. He handed over to a board with similar positions as the U.S. government.
"The system is unsustainable while it excludes half the world," I have been saying since 2012. More, including the transcript of Fadi's statements,http://bit.ly/CEOPromises

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling http://bit.ly/SorryPai
Pai justifies his NN choice with the claim, "The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers." #wrong (Actually, NN has minimal effects on investment, up or down, I’m convinced. Competition, new technology, customer demand and similar are far more important.)
The two largest suppliers to “smaller ISPs” saw sales go up. Adtran's sales the most recent nine months were $540M, up from $473M the year before. 2016 was $636M, 2015 $600M. Calix the last nine months sold $372M, up from $327M. The full year 2016 was $459M, up from $407M in 2015. Clearfield, a supplier of fiber optic gear, was up 8% in sales in the smaller ISPs.
There is nothing in the data from others that suggests an alternate trend. Anyone could have found this data in a few minutes from the company quarterly reports.
The results in larger companies are ambiguous. I can "prove" capex went up or went down by selecting the right data. The four largest companies' capex - two/thirds of the total - went up from $52.7B in 2015 to $55.7B in 2016. The result remains positive after making sensible adjustments for mergers and acquisitions. That's as close to "proving" that NN led to increased spending as the facts chosen to prove the opposite.
Actually, whether capex went up or down in 2016 tells us almost nothing about the choice on neutrality. Everyone knows a single datapoint could be random or due to other causes. Much more, including the source of the errors http://bit.ly/SorryPai

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More http://bit.ly/VintTim
Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and more than a dozen true Internet pioneers wrote Congress to protect Neutrality. The best Congress money can buy didn't listen but I wanted to reproduce their letter.
I hope they are wrong believing "is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create." My take is the impact will be moderate in the short run.
From the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. ... The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order ... More, including the full list, http://bit.ly/VintTim