U.S. mobile bandwidth is rich world’s most expensive, and it could get worse

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Mobile broadband prices in the U.S. are the highest in the developed world, according to a report just published by a Finnish research company. A study by Rewheel concluded that even though there are four seemingly competitive mobile operators in the U.S., “gigabyte prices are not competitive”, and “the US has the 5th highest gigabyte prices in smartphone plans and is the most expensive market in mobile broadband among the 41” European Union and other developed countries (i.e. those that belong to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).

One gigabyte of mobile data in the U.S. costs $6.77 on average. That’s higher than any other country, although perhaps there’s some comfort in knowing that Canada is second highest, at $6.18 per gigabyte. The European Union average is $2.33 per gigabyte, and the overall OECD average is $3.03 per gigabyte. (I’ve converted Rewheel’s cost figures from euros to dollars, using its benchmark rate of €30 equals approximately $35).

The story gets even bleaker when competition is factored in. Like many developed countries, the U.S. has four competing mobile operators, but that doesn’t translate into competitive prices. The average mobile broadband price in countries with four carriers is $2.97 per gigabyte, less than half the cost in the U.S. Countries with only three mobile operators have an average per gigabyte price of $3.73, which is still three bucks cheaper than in the U.S. market, which is theoretically more competitive.

Theoretically. And maybe not for long.

T-Mobile is trying to get permission from federal authorities and the California Public Utilities Commission to buy Sprint. Rewheel concludes that “the 4 to 3 US merger, if approved without the upfront entry of a new 4th [mobile network operator] will lessen the already weak competition”.

Despite the Alice in Wonderland claims made by the two companies, competition will not intensify if there are fewer mobile carriers in the U.S. market. Fewer competitors equals less competition. If that wasn’t obvious to the Federal Communications Commission, the federal justice department and the CPUC before Rewheel’s report came out, it should be now.

FCC illegally “asserts federal control over municipal utility structures”, court told

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The City of San Jose briefly explained its case against the Federal Communications Commission in a filing with the federal appeals court in Denver last week. San Jose, Los Angeles County and eighteen other western cities joined together to challenge the FCC’s decision to preempt local ownership of streetlights, traffic signals and other municipal property that’s located in the public right of way.

Six other challenges were filed – two by local agencies and associations that represent them, and four by mobile operators who think the FCC wasn’t generous enough. The cases were lodged in several different federal appeals courts around the country, and then were consolidated, via a lottery, in the tenth circuit court of appeals in Denver.

AT&T’s appeal was filed in Washington, D.C. but wasn’t included in the first round of consolidation. Last week, the FCC asked that it be moved to Denver, too, and AT&T didn’t oppose the request.

San Jose told the court…

On Sept. 26, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Declaratory Order and Report and Order…that, among other things: reinterprets key statutory terms…and which establishes new deadlines for action on applications for “small wireless facilities.” Many local governments, including Petitioners, objected to the FCC’s proposals on both legal and policy grounds, and submitted substantial legal, economic, and policy evidence into the underlying record never addressed by the agency.

Among other things, the Order abrogates an en banc plain language decision of the Ninth Circuit interpreting [those key statutory terms]; requires states and localities to lease facilities not generally dedicated to public use to certain wireless companies at out of pocket costs…asserts federal control over municipal utility structures; shortens time for action on wireless applications in a way that is designed to prevent public participation; and sets a federal standard for aesthetics without authority. Petitioners dispute the ruling on statutory and constitutional grounds, and also argue that it is, inter alia, arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise contrary to law.

The second group of cities and other organisations, which is led by the City of Seattle, hasn’t offered its initial argument yet, nor has the City of Huntington Beach, which launched a solo appeal.

Verizon, Sprint and Puerto Rico Telephone have, though. Verizon’s litigious trolling is typical, claiming that the FCC completely blew it because it didn’t go far enough…

The FCC’s refusal to implement a “deemed granted” remedy is arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, and is an abuse of the Commission’s discretion. It also violates other federal laws including, but not limited to, the Communications Act of 1934, the Commission’s own regulations, and the United States Constitution; and it is otherwise contrary to law.

AT&T’s initial filing made a similar claim, so it’ll be no surprise if it follows Verizon’s lead. The federal appeals court in Denver hasn’t set a schedule for further proceedings yet.

The FCC’s order is scheduled to take effect on 14 January 2019. The logical next step for the municipal challengers is to ask the court to put it on hold, until the cases are heard.

Links to petitions, court documents and background material are here.

U.S. mobile carriers asked to explain tests showing they throttle particular video providers

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Three U.S. senate democrats are calling out the four major mobile carriers on their throttling and prioritisation policies. Senators Edward Markey (D – Massachusetts), Richard Blumenthal (D – Connecticut), and Ron Wyden (D – Oregon) sent joint letters to the CEOs of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, asking them to explain results from an Internet traffic testing app that indicate they’re deliberating slowing some traffic down…

We write to express our concern that mobile carriers may be inappropriately throttling and prioritizing internet traffic from common mobile apps without the knowledge of their customers. Through the use of the app Wehe, researchers recently identified numerous instances of cellular providers throttling video and communications services.’ Such practices would violate the principles of net neutrality and unfairly treat consumers who are unaware that their carriers are selecting which services receive faster or slower treatment…In light of this study, we write to ask you about your policies regarding the treatment of internet traffic.

The companies are not obligated to respond and, given that the U.S. senate will remain in the control of republicans, the threat of a hearing or other compulsory action isn’t readily apparent. But it could be embarrassing, and it’s a good bet that the three senators will make the most of that opportunity, should it arise.

On the other hand, if they do respond, it’ll be interesting to see what they say. And particularly interesting if AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson cops to throttling the three video services – YouTube, Netflix, and NBC Sports – that the letter calls out. His chief staff lobbyist in Sacramento, Bill Devine, claimed that AT&T does not “degrade Internet traffic” during hearings on senate bill 822 – California’s net neutrality law – earlier this year. He didn’t stick to the truth in other respects; the question now is whether his boss will try to bluff it out too.

PG&E reports second “incident” near Camp Fire ignition point, faces CPUC investigation

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At least 71 people are dead, more than a thousand are missing, and the fight to contain the Camp Fire in Butte County continues. As dense smoke settled over its San Francisco headquarters, the California Public Utilities Commission said it will take a hard look at Pacific Gas and Electric, which might have been responsible for starting it.

In yet another bizarre twist to the story, PG&E filed a second incident report with the CPUC late yesterday afternoon, revealing that it “experienced an outage on the Big Bend 1101 12kV circuit in Butte County”, in the community of Concow, at 6:45 a.m. on 8 November 2018, the morning it all began. Previously, PG&E disclosed that it had an outage on the Caribou-Palermo 115 kV Transmission line, a mile northeast of the town of Pulga, 30 minutes before that at 6:15 a.m.

The first report correlated to eyewitness reports of a fire underneath a PG&E high voltage line that began coming in at 6:33 a.m., which was before this second outage happened.

PG&E isn’t offering any details – or speculation – about what this second report might mean. It’s only saying “Cal Fire has collected PG&E equipment on that circuit” and “secured a location” nearby. All Cal Fire has said about the cause of the Camp Fire is that it’s “under investigation”.

Concow is between Pulga and Paradise. Until now, the publicly available information indicated that the fire started east of Pulga, where it was first reported, then moved west into Pulga, through Concow and then into Paradise. A story in the Chico Enterprise Record earlier this week told of how a zone by zone evacuation plan – previously rehearsed by Paradise officials – was pushed beyond the breaking point by the speed of the blaze. This latest report from PG&E raises the possibility that a second ignition point flared up closer to Paradise, taking everyone by surprise.

At this point it’s just my own speculation. But if something like that happened – two fires beginning so close together, from similar causes – it raises even more questions about how this kind of disaster can be prevented in the future.

CPUC president Michael Picker said in a press release “in the existing PG&E safety culture investigation proceeding, I will open a new phase examining the corporate governance, structure, and operation of PG&E, including in light of the recent wildfires”. He also said that the commission will begin implementing senate bill 901, which was passed by the California legislature earlier this year and allows electric utilities to pass some of the costs associated with wildfire liability on to customers.

The physical damage toll will be in the billions of dollars, beyond the limit of PG&E’s insurance coverage and, maybe, beyond its ability to pay under normal circumstances. Bankruptcy is a possibility, if PG&E is even partly to blame and the CPUC doesn’t offer a sufficient bail out.

Southern California Edison also faces the possibility of a multi-billion dollar damage bill from the Woolsey and Hill fires, which ripped through parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties. One of its high voltage lines was near the Woolsey Fire’s point of origin, although the cause is yet to be determined as well.

Long term, there are many ideas floating around for reducing the risk of wildfires in California. But for now – for today – the only thing electric utilities can do is turn off power to high risk lines ahead of high wind forecasts.

So far, there have been no major wildfires in San Diego Gas and Electric’s territory. The winds came a little later there, and SDG&E aggressively and proactively de-energised lines before the worst hit. Power was deliberately cut to more than 24,000 customers, with all service restored by yesterday.

SCE didn’t proactively shut down any lines before the fires began, but did shut off a total of 85 customers in scattered locations as high winds continued. All were back on line by Wednesday. PG&E warned it might cut off power in Butte and either other northern California counties ahead of the Camp Fire, but did not do so and stopped issuing alerts more than a week ago.

CPUC allows AT&T, Frontier to tap dance their way out of fines for bad service

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AT&T and Frontier Communications were fined $2.2 million and $823,000, respectively, by California Public Utilities Commission, for “chronic” service failure, primarily in rural California. Sorta. Kinda.

Well, not really.

At its meeting in Fresno last week, the CPUC voted unanimously to allow Frontier and AT&T to skip the fines, which were mostly for taking too long to restore telephone service for customers who experienced outages. In return, the companies promised to make “incremental” investments in improving service quality. The amount of those supposedly incremental investments are claimed to be twice the amount of the fines. Which is allowed under a baffling and irregular decision made two years ago by the commission.

The resolution regarding the AT&T fines noted the difficulty in figuring out what’s incremental and what’s money that would have been spent anyway. CPUC staff asked AT&T for list of what it planned to spend on “construction and rehabilitation projects”. AT&T responded with a list of repair work it was doing, rather than “planned projects focused on the rehabilitation of poor performing central offices”. That was because AT&T claimed not to know what it would have spent normally, because “they do not budget for specific projects; all project work is identified on a rolling basis and reprioritised based on the ability to reduce high maintenance costs”.

Translation: we can tell you anything we want and you have to believe us because you can’t prove differently.

After some back and forth, CPUC staff accepted AT&T’s story and recommended that commissioners accept AT&T’s claims and give the company two years to demonstrate “the results of their proposed projects to measurably improve service quality in its network”.

Frontier’s explanations are similarly wooly.

After the vote, which was on a consent agenda – a bunch of resolutions bundled together – commissioner Clifford Rechtscaffen said the policy of letting telephone companies fine themselves and keep the money needs a second look…

These are a set of resolutions we just approved under a new program we initiated a couple of years ago as an amendment to general order 133-D, and in particular they allow telephone companies who have been found to have violated our service quality requirements to substitute paying a penalty by making investments to improve service quality that are at least twice the amount of the penalty. I understand that this investment option was a creative way to try to address longstanding service quality deficiencies.

At the time the resolution was adopted a couple of commissioners expressed concerns and reservations about it, including commissioner Randolph, who asked the question of whether or not we would really be able to tell whether or not the investments that were made were incremental to what telephone companies would be doing in the normal course of business.

We’ve approved these three investment alternatives, but in practice we can now see that it is difficult, in fact, to determine whether or not the investments are incremental. This required a lot of staff time working with the companies to figure out what was new, what was not new and where the best places for the investments would be. I commend the staff for reaching good conclusions here. I continue to have some reservations about this option. I think we want to look carefully and see whether or not the investments really do improve service quality and whether or not this option makes sense in terms of our larger enforcement objectives.

The option doesn’t make sense. There’s no indication that either AT&T or Frontier offered any two year budgets, which is the only way to even begin determining whether their proposed spending-in-lieu-of-fines is, in truth, extra money on top of what they’d spend anyway. Or whether they’re just shifting money from one line item to another.

Letting Frontier and AT&T pay fines to themselves was a bad decision in the first place, and the details behind last week’s commission vote proves it.

Big telecoms’ one net neutrality victory in California is the one that matters

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The California legislature’s failure to pass senate bill 460 in August, following large cash payments to key lawmakers by big telecoms companies, might come back to haunt network neutrality advocates. Carried by senator Kevin de Leon (D – Los Angeles), he allowed it to be shuffled off to the side as lawmakers approved SB 822, a comprehensive net neutrality bill authored by senator Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco).

With some exceptions, SB 460 would have required state and local agencies to buy broadband service only from providers that abide by net neutrality principles. Given that it’s the big telecoms companies – AT&T, particularly, but also Comcast, Charter and Frontier – that dominate the government services market, it would have been a powerful incentive for them to stick to those rules.

It’s also much safer ground for state-level action. SB 822 is on hold, following a federal court challenge, and it could be years before it has any effect, even if it survives the legal process. But SB 460 was about public procurement policy, and that’s something that federal agencies, particularly the Federal Communications Commission, don’t have much, if any, control over.

The FCC’s top staff lawyer, general counsel Tom Johnson, conceded as much during a recent appearance at a Washington, D.C. event, according to a story in Politico

Although the FCC believes it can override state net neutrality laws like the one in California, it hasn’t yet settled the question of whether it can challenge efforts to make net neutrality a requirement for state government contracts, Johnson said. “The commission has not taken an explicit position,” he said, adding the FCC hasn’t sought to intervene in such procurement-related actions for that reason.

De Leon never seemed to have a particular passion for net neutrality. He backed several bills aimed at high profile issues this past year, as he tried to gain some traction in his ultimately futile attempt to beat Diane Feinstein in the race for her U.S. senate seat. He had a hard time articulating a coherent argument for his bill; during one committee meeting, Wiener had to step in and explain why both bills were needed.

SB 460 was necessary because SB 822 was, and is, resting on shaky legal ground. With it off the table for the foreseeable future and SB 460 trashed, California will end 2018 exactly the way it began it: with no net neutrality guarantees at all.

Money and performance at center of CETF’s fight with Frontier

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Frontier Communications says the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) has to return $714,000, if it asks for it. CETF’s response on Friday was we don’t have it anymore.

When Frontier won California Public Utilities Commission approval in 2015 to buy Verizon’s landline telephone systems in California, a long list of conditions was attached. Among them was a contract that committed “up to” $3 million to achieve the “aspirational goal” of signing up 200,000 low income Californian households for broadband service – from any provider, not just Frontier. In return, CETF dropped its opposition to the Verizon deal.

A second implementation contract spelled out more detailed terms: Frontier would pay $60 to non-profit groups recruited by CETF for each new, qualified broadband subscriber. Frontier also agreed to periodically advance portions of the money, and CETF agreed to return any unused funds after the contract expired on 30 June 2018.

The non-profits only signed up 4,300 subs, while Frontier advanced CETF $1 million. By Frontier’s math, that leaves $714,000 in the bank.

CETF wants the program to continue. Frontier is willing to go along with that for another year, up to a point. Which wasn’t enough for CETF, so the dispute landed at the CPUC. CETF wants the commission to rewrite the contracts by fiat. Frontier prefers them as they are and hinted in a reply filed with the CPUC that it might come looking for its money.

CETF says it only has $294,000 left in “trust” it because it similarly advanced cash to its non-profit clients, with the expectation that they would be signing up a lot more new subscribers than they did. A sample CETF grant contract, included in one of Frontier’s CPUC filings, says that unearned money has to be paid back. That might be, um, difficult for some non-profits. Without favorable intervention by the CPUC, CETF might be on the hook for the difference. Which would be, um, inconvenient.

There’s more.

In a rhetorical back flip, CETF argues that it wasn’t the 200,000 household goal that was “aspirational” (even though the contract said it was). Instead, CETF says it was the clear contract expiration date that was a fuzzy target.

CETF then makes what ought to be Frontier’s case. It argues that because the program is a failure, Frontier needs to fix it…

Instead of 200,000 low-income broadband home adoptions, there are only 11,038, which means the shortfall is a staggering 188,962 households. This is prima facie evidence that Frontier’s approach was in need of revision to fulfill its obligations.

Only 39% of those new subscribers were signed up by CETF’s non-profit clients. The remaining 61% were directly acquired by Frontier. Even if you assume that Frontier is obliged to continue its efforts to bring more low income households into the online world, the numbers don’t suggest that the best way to do it is to continue working through CETF’s non-profit sales channel.

A hearing in front of a CPUC administrative law judge is scheduled for 28 November 2018.

California broadband subsidy reboot draft posted, and it’s mostly good

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The long awaited revisions to the California Advanced Service Fund’s (CASF) infrastructure grant program are finally on the table, more than a year after it was signed into law by governor Jerry Brown. A draft of the new rules was published late Friday afternoon, with the goal of putting it to a vote of the California Public Utilities Commission next month. There’s a lot of good news in the draft, but also some bad news. Some of the bad is unavoidable. The California legislature voted to turn CASF into a taxpayer-funded piggybank for AT&T and Frontier Communications. Friday’s draft, issued by Martha Guzman Aceves, the commissioner assigned to the rewrite, plays the poor hand dealt by lawmakers reasonably well.

One bit of bad news could have been avoided. If the draft is approved, the CPUC will only accept applications for CASF infrastructure grants once a year, in April. That’s a victory for big, monopoly model cable and telephone companies over sound broadband development policy. Independent projects, proposed by competitive broadband providers and backed by local communities, don’t run on a timetable. Corporate planning departments and capital budgets can and do. It’s convenient for AT&T and Frontier to spend a year drawing up a wish list and submitting it all at once. Not so for a one off project designed to fill a gap in a community that isn’t affluent enough generate a sufficient return on investment for those incumbents, with or without a subsidy.

On the plus side, the proposed changes to the program offer hope for local projects – if you don’t bet you can’t win – that can slow dance to the CPUC’s beat:

  • The review and approval process would be streamlined. Projects requesting a grant of $5 million or less, and that meet other cost and regulatory criteria could be approved by staff, instead of having to go to a formal vote by commissioners.
  • A seemingly hard three week deadline is set for incumbents that try to block competitors by claiming they already provide service that meets the California legislature’s pitiful minimum 6 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds. In the past, the CPUC has allowed incumbents to disrupt application reviews through perpetual challenges – Frontier is a particular abuser of the process – leading to delays of more than two years and, in some cases, killing projects altogether.
  • Challengers will also have to submit hard, complete information about current service upfront, including information about actual customers who subscribe to it. But only one qualifying sub per census block could be enough to kill an infrastructure upgrade for everyone else.
  • Projects “in low income areas” or where the only terrestrial option is dial up service can be fully funded; projects elsewhere that meet certain criteria can get up to 80%.
  • Projects can include middle mile facilities if the applicant demonstrates “it requested specific data and/or transport services from a provider and that provider was not able to meet that request and offered no other alternative”. There’s good and bad in this particular language. It opens the door to meaningful middle mile upgrades, which are indispensable to broadband development. On the other hand, it calls out transport and data services – Layers 2 and 3+, in geek speak – but ignores dark fiber, i.e. Layer 1, which is the true choke point that monopoly model telcos like AT&T, Frontier and CenturyLink use to block competition.
  • Rules for the so-called right of first refusal – Jus Primae Noctis is a better description – have been tightened. It’s a legislative present to incumbents which allows them to block projects in an area by promising to upgrade service.
  • AT&T and Frontier will have to disclose plans for building out in federally subsidised areas, if they want to keep the gift of exclusivity lawmakers gave them after cashing their generous checks out of a profound commitment to public service.
  • Formal requirements would be established for 1. latency (max of 100 milliseconds), 2. monthly data caps (at least 190 gigabytes) and 3. an “affordable broadband plan for low-income customers”.

Technical changes to the current rules are also proposed. A few requirements have been streamlined, others tightened up.

One can was kicked down the road. The “line extension” program approved by lawmakers, which was first proposed by Comcast as a way of laundering subsidies through customers in order to escape CPUC oversight, will be left to “a future commission decision”. Lawmakers set aside $5 million for grants to residents to pay for extending service to their homes.

The draft was released in time for a vote by commissioners at their final meeting of the year, on 13 December 2018. A delay until next year is possible, though.

Proposed decision of commissioner Guzman Aceves, implementing the California Advanced Services Fund infrastructure account revised rules, 9 November 2018

Links to other documents – decisions on other issues, drafts, comments and more – are here.

SDG&E shuts off electricity in fire danger areas, possible SCE link to Woolsey blaze ignition

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Update, 13:48, 12 November 2018: SCE has begun proactive shutoffs, according to its website “due to dangerous high winds in Red Flag fire areas, SCE shut off power to roughly 50 customers in the Moorpark area at about 10:50 a.m. this morning”.

Much of California is under a red flag warning this morning. High winds and dangerously dry conditions could mean yet more wildfires, and more trouble for the three major fires already burning. The death toll from the Camp Fire in Butte County rose to 29 overnight, with hundreds of people still missing. At least two people died in the Woolsey Fire in Ventura and Los Angeles County. Both of those fires are largely uncontained, with high winds expected today and tomorrow.

So far, San Diego Gas and Electric is the only major Californian electric utility to begin large scale, proactive power cuts. It turned off electricity in and around eight communities in San Diego County last night and this morning, affecting ten thousand customers. Southern California Edison put dozens of communities on alert yesterday, but so far hasn’t reported turning off power proactively. PG&E hasn’t updated its proactive electric shut off notices since Friday.

A possible link between SCE and the start of the Woolsey fire surfaced yesterday. SCE filed a report with the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday night, stating that there was an interruption to a high voltage line near the start of the blaze, two minutes before the first report of a fire came in…

Preliminary information indicates the Woolsey Fire was reported at approximately 2:24 p.m. Our information reflects the Big Rock 16 kV circuit out of Chatsworth Substation relayed at 2:22 p.m. Our personnel have not accessed the area to assess our facilities in the vicinity of where the fire reportedly began. At this point we have no indication from fire agency personnel that SCE utility facilities may have been involved in the start of the fire.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that SCE’s incident caused the fire – it might have been the other way around – but it raises the possibility. Cal Fire lists the causes of the Camp, Woolsey and the (smaller and largely contained) Hill fires as “under investigation”.

Beyond the human tragedy, there’s no reliable damage estimate yet. All that’s certain is that it’ll be in the billions of dollars, if not tens or hundreds of billions, range. Under California law, utilities are on the hook for the full cost of the damage, even if the blame is shared with others. A bill passed in the final days of the California legislature’s session in August – senate bill 901 – allowed some of that cost to be passed on to electric customers, but that’s only a partial solution.

The cost of maintaining utility pole routes will climb, which will drive up costs for the telecommunications companies that share those routes. And if telecoms lines are involved in the start of a fire – a loose cable wrapping around electric lines was blamed in a 2007 San Diego County fire – then telephone, cable and other broadband companies would be similarly liable for the damage done.

Governor Jerry Brown said “this is the new abnormal” in a press conference yesterday. That applies as much to California’s telecoms future as it does to everything else connected to these fires.

Race to 5G is ready to go, but don’t be distracted by false starts

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The easiest way to win the race to 5G is to simply declare victory. It’s what mobile carriers did a decade ago with 4G, and what they’re doing now. That’s causing confusion, as an editorial by FierceWireless’ Monica Alleven describes…

One of the problems with defining 5G is, practically speaking, there’s no single judge currently determining what is or isn’t 5G. Is it ITU’s job, or 3GPP’s? Mostly, it’s the individual marketing departments at carriers and vendors, or “all of the above"…

Verizon is probably the most justified to date to actually call its 5G Home service a 5G service. It’s not using equipment built on 3GPP’s 5G standard, it’s using the Verizon Technical Forum specification for 5G. But it’s close enough to pass the test for most in-the-know analysts, and we’re told it’s a relatively easy upgrade to the real deal when that’s ready. (That’s not to say that I think Verizon’s fixed wireless access version of 5G is really all that mind-blowing. It’s not. But that’s a different discussion.)

Verizon’s proto–5G fixed wireless service is still just a test bed. The technology is intended as an upgrade to mobile networks, even though it can serve as a platform for fixed wireless too. But it’s nearly there and, as Alleven points out, Verizon should get credit for it.

Other carriers are jumping in as well, with marketing claims that are running ahead of the state of the art. AT&T laid down a notorious smokescreen last year, when it pasted its “5G Evolution” branding on its 4G network.

T-Mobile has hung back a bit so far, but keep an eye on them: it’ll be easy for them to dust off their 4G playbook and run the same deception again. Back when all they had was a 3G network, the marketing department decided it was so excellent that it should be called 4G too.

T-Mobile’s 3G service was good then. So is AT&T’s 4G network now. But that doesn’t justify a phoney promotion to the next generation of technology. Policy makers – at the federal, state and local level – have a lot of work ahead of them, to prepare for the day that true 5G mobile networks are deployed, 5G phones are on the market and customers – of all kinds – get the full benefit of the technology.

It’s urgent work, but not the crisis that mobile companies often make it out to be.