Tag Archives: mobile broadband

T-Mobile, Sprint ordered to halt merger in California, but don’t seem to care what CPUC thinks

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Caltrans flagger stop

T-Mobile and Sprint completed their merger yesterday morning, but they’ll have to wait at least a couple more weeks, and maybe longer, for a decision from the California Public Utilities Commission before they can begin combining their operations in California.

If.

If they pay any attention to an order issued yesterday afternoon by CPUC commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen. Responding to a Tuesday night letter from T-Mobile’s then-COO and now CEO Michael Sievert, Rechtschaffen ruled…

[California] Public Utilities Code Section 854(a) states in relevant part that “[n]o person or corporation, whether or not organized under the laws of this state, shall merge, acquire, or control … either directly or indirectly, any public utility organized and doing business in this state without first securing authorization to do so from the commission.” Both Joint Applicants, T-Mobile and Sprint, have California subsidiaries that are public utility telephone corporations under state law, and subject to the jurisdiction of this agency. The merger of the companies’ operations in California is therefore subject to CPUC approval. Accordingly, Joint Applicants shall not begin merger of their California operations until after the CPUC issues a final decision on the pending applications.

There’s good reason to think the two companies will effectively ignore the order. In the letter, Sievert told Rechtschaffen and CPUC administrative law judge Karl Bemesderfer that they “lack jurisdiction” over the merger, and he would close it without their blessing. Rechtschaffen is the “assigned commissioner” for the CPUC’s review, which means he oversees it, and Bemesderfer is managing it.

In lengthier comments filed yesterday, T-Mobile’s lawyers tried to offer a legal basis for that point of view, but Rechtschaffen is unconvinced, to say the least.

T-Mobile’s defiance is risky, as the company acknowledged yesterday in the fine print of its triumphal press release

There are several factors that could cause actual plans and results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to…the risk of litigation or regulatory actions, including litigation or actions that may arise from T-Mobile’s consummation of the business combination during the pendency of the California Public Utility Commission’s review of the business combination.

“Regulatory actions” will happen, beginning with the CPUC’s review of the merger, which is scheduled to go to a commission vote on 16 April 2020. Assuming it’s approved more or less as written, the draft of that decision imposes a long list of service and employment conditions on the combined company. Fines and other penalties are also possible, although that will take months, if not years, to sort out.

What is certain to follow, though, is litigation. T-Mobile says its mobile business isn’t governed by California law. Rechtschaffen says it is, and it’s a good bet his fellow commissioners agree. That dispute will have to be settled in a federal court.

Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling, T-Mobile/Sprint merger, 1 April 2020

T-Mobile letter informing CPUC of intent to complete merger, 31 March 2020

Comments on the proposed decision of administrative law judge Karl Bemesderfer, 1 April 2020:
Joint Applicants (T-Mobile and Sprint)
CPUC Public Advocates Office
Communications Workers of America
TURN
Greenlining
California Emerging Technology Fund

TURN and Greenlining protest of Sprint’s CPCN relinquishment, 1 April 2020
CPUC Public Advocates Office, notice of ex parte meeting with CPUC president Marybel Batjer’s staff, 1 April 2020
Communications Workers of America, notice of ex parte meeting with CPUC president Marybel Batjer’s staff, 1 April 2020

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.

T-Mobile tells CPUC it “lacks jurisdiction” and should address its “deficiencies”, as Sprint deal closes without its permission

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

History of the World, Part 1 - Piss Boy

T-Mobile is doing what it planned to do all along: complete its acquisition of Sprint today, regardless of whether it has regulatory approval to do so from the California Public Utilities Commission. In a letter sent to the CPUC commissioner and the administrative law judge in charge of the merger review, T-Mobile’s chief operating officer Michael Sievert said he’s doing what he thinks he needs to do, and not only is the commission powerless to act but it should see the light and rubber stamp the deal…

Finally, as we have explained to the Commission previously, an April 1 close is critical to the parties, as accounting and financial reporting needs, and the imperative for accuracy of such reporting, significantly limit the available closing dates for the merger, and delaying beyond April 1 would result in substantial — and ever-increasing — harm and risks to [T-Mobile and Sprint].

Notwithstanding our abiding view that the Commission lacks jurisdiction over this transaction, we have fully cooperated in the CPUC’s 20-month review process. T-Mobile stands ready to honor the nearly 50 voluntary California-specific commitments it has made in connection with the deal. However, notwithstanding our appreciation of the proposed decision’s recognition of the many benefits of the merger, it contains a number of obligations that in addition to exceeding the CPUC’s jurisdiction are not supported by the record, are practically impossible, are unfair and discriminatory to T-Mobile vs our competitors – including the entrenched incumbents, and/or are anti-competitive. Accordingly, [T-Mobile and Sprint] urge you to revise the proposed decision to address those deficiencies and to proceed with a vote on the modified proposed decision to close the proceedings at the Commission’s April 16 meeting as scheduled.

Sievert opened the letter by blaming his defiance on the covid–19 emergency, but went on to justify it by airing the same arguments T-Mobile and its local lawyers have been making for the past 20 months, long before the pandemic began. T-Mobile has to get about the “important work” of integrating networks so it can deliver “massive benefits” to Californians, he said.

The question now is how, or if, the CPUC or California attorney general Xavier Becerra will respond, and what happens to the truckload of “voluntary California-specific commitments” that T-Mobile dangled in arguments and testimony or the sterner conditions in the draft decision that’s so upsetting to Sievert. Saying you “stand ready” to keep a promise isn’t the same thing as promising to keep it.

Those conditions include requiring T-Mobile to increase its workforce in California by 1,000 jobs, keep its promise to compete for in-home customers, and offer better broadband service in rural communities.

We might get a peek at what’s to come later today, when the first round of public comments on the proposed decision are due and challengers can have their say. A posse from the CPUC’s public advocates office, the Communications Workers of America and TURN made the rounds of commissioners’ staff last month, as did T-Mobile and its helpmate, the California Emerging Technology Fund. Those opponents urged complete rejection of the merger. It’s a fair bet they’ll repeat that advice in their comments, as well as offer some polite suggestions for disemboweling this morning’s transaction.

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.

T-Mobile goes nuclear in California, preps to close Sprint deal without CPUC’s blessing

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Slim pickens rides the bomb

T-Mobile and Sprint asked to withdraw their application for California Public Utilities Commission approval of the wireline elements of their merger agreement yesterday. At the same time, Sprint sent the CPUC a letter “relinquishing its [California] certificate of public Convenience and necessity” (CPCN). That sets the stage for the two companies to close their deal without CPUC permission, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, which is the day they’ve been targeting all along. It also provides a basis for challenging, if not ignoring completely, any conditions the CPUC might impose on them, such as those proposed in a draft decision that commissioners are scheduled to consider on 16 April 2020.

T-Mobile and Sprint have two requests pending with the CPUC. They’re asking for permission to transfer Sprint’s wireline CPCN – its authorisation to operate as a telephone company in California – to T-Mobile, and they’ve notified the CPUC that they plan to combine their mobile wireless operations. The commission bundled those two matters into a single case, something that T-Mobile (and Sprint, but it’s T-Mobile running the show) objected to all along.

The CPUC’s jurisdiction over the wireline asset transfer is very clear, but it is uncontroversial. The far bigger mobile side of the deal is what opponents – including California attorney general Xavier Becerra – are worried about and what the proposed conditions directly address.

The CPUC’s authority over a mobile carrier is murky at best. Mobile licenses are issued by the Federal Communications Commission, which approved the transfer. Carriers have to register their federal licenses with the CPUC, but arguably – at least if you’re T-Mobile – that’s just an informational filing, with no state-level regulatory review needed or allowed.

T-Mobile’s lawyers have been making that argument all along, and threatened more than once to go ahead with the merger without waiting for a decision from the CPUC. Taking the wireline issue off the table will make that far easier to do.

T-Mobile can’t simply say never mind. The CPUC can deny, or ignore, the motion to withdraw the wireline transfer application, and there’s potentially months of wrangling ahead over Sprint’s abandonment of its CPCN. But once the transaction is closed, it’ll be difficult to unwind, even if yesterday’s gambit is ultimately rejected by a court. We might know as soon as tomorrow whether the companies will try to cowboy it out and complete the merger while the CPUC is chewing it over.

Motion of Joint Applicants to Withdraw Wireline Application, 30 March 2020
Sprint Communications Company – Tier 1 Advice Letter Relinquishing Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, 30 March 2020

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.

Fixed, mobile North American broadband speeds will more than double by 2023, Cisco study says

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Cisco forecast 2018 2023

More and more people around the world will have access to faster and faster broadband connections, with speeds for fixed and mobile service doubling and tripling by 2023, due in large part to increased global deployment of fiber to the premise and 5G technology, according to a white paper recently published by Cisco. Although North America will continue to beat world broadband speed averages, the U.S. will not be among the leaders in advanced infrastructure deployment.

Cisco’s research indicates that the average North American mobile broadband connection in 2018 ran at 22 Mbps, and that will nearly triple to 58 Mbps by 2023. 5G networks will own a large share of that increase, but the U.S. won’t earn a podium spot…

The top three 5G countries in terms of percent of devices and connections share on 5G will be China (20.7%), Japan (20.6%), and United Kingdom (19.5%), by 2023.

Globally, fixed broadband speeds will also jump, particularly in countries that, unlike the U.S., are focused on making fiber infrastructure ubiquitous…

The global average broadband speed continues to grow and will more than double from 2018 to 2023, from 45.9 Mbps to 110.4 Mbps…Several factors influence the fixed broadband-speed forecast, including the deployment and adoption of Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH), high-speed DSL, and cable broadband adoption, as well as overall broadband penetration. Among the countries covered by this study, Japan, South Korea, and Sweden lead in terms of broadband speed largely because of their wide deployment of FTTH.

North America’s average fixed broadband download speed will be comfortably above the global average at 142 Mbps by 2023, according to the white paper. That only earns us second place on the world league table, though. Asia will still be tops at 157 Mbps, and higher growth rates – 30% annually or better – in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa mean that the gap between U.S. broadband speeds and those in the developing world will continue to close.

CPUC plans to police Sprint merger requirements, but T-Mobile might not play along

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Jack webb 625

Improved mobile broadband coverage, workforce increases and other California-specific requirements proposed in a draft California Public Utilities Commission decision as conditions for approving the T-Mobile/Sprint merger are meaningless without enforcement. The proposed decision, published last week, takes a big step towards putting real teeth behind those requirements, but that won’t guarantee compliance by the new, bulked up T-Mobile.

The conditions, which are largely intended to fix some of the worst anti-competitive effects of the deal, include hiring an “independent monitor” to closely watch T-Mobile over the next ten years. That’s a welcome change from recent practice, which left enforcement of conditions imposed on major telecoms mergers to third parties, which often have a greater interest in maintaining cash flow from the companies they’re supposedly bird dogging, or to regular CPUC procedures, which are more geared toward punishing violations rather than preventing them in the first place.

Whether this new approach will work is an open question, though. Although the CPUC’s proposed decision makes a strong case for its authority to, in effect, regulate the behavior of a mobile carrier, T-Mobile is equally adamant that no such power exists. The company has always framed its promise of the amazing wonderfulness of the Sprint deal as a voluntary commitment, rather than something it can be held accountable for by a state agency. There’s nothing preventing T-Mobile from accepting the CPUC’s permission to acquire Sprint, while ignoring everything else. Such a move would likely lead to years of litigation at the CPUC and, eventually, state and federal courts, but that’s just a cost of doing business for a big, multinational telecoms company.

The first indication of T-Mobile’s true intentions could come when (assuming the draft decision is approved by commissioners in April) the CPUC tries to hire the independent monitor. Supposedly, the cost of that person (or firm) will be paid by T-Mobile. We’ll know then if it intends to pay any attention at all to the CPUC’s requirements.

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.

CPUC proposes requiring faster rural broadband, wider coverage, more California jobs to approve T-Mobile/Sprint deal

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Tmobile san francisco 18may2019

T-Mobile must keep the broadband availability and pricing promises it made, in order to win approval of its merger with Sprint from the California Public Utilities Commission. That’s assuming the commission adopts the proposed decision published yesterday by administrative law judge Karl Bemesderfer. As drafted, the decision would bless the deal but impose conditions that were pulled from commitments T-Mobile made directly to the CPUC during the course of the review, and to federal agencies and private organisations.

Improved broadband service is a key condition. T-Mobile would have to upgrade and expand broadband availability over the next 10 years, reaching 91% of Californians with at least 50 Mbps download speeds by the end of 2023 and building to 100 Mbps service availability to 99% of the population by the end of 2026. Within that, T-Mobile will have to be able to serve 81% of rural Californians with 50 Mbps download speeds by the end of 2023, increasing to 96% by 2030, with 90% able to access 100 Mbps service then.

T-Mobile will also have to live up to its claim that it’ll compete for in-home customers…

New T-Mobile shall offer in-home broadband service wherever 5G service is available. Within 3 years of the close of the merger, T-Mobile shall have in-home broadband service available to at least 912,000 California households, of which at least 58,000 shall be rural. Within 6 years of the close of the merger, T-Mobile shall have in-home broadband service available to at least 2.3 million California households, of which at least 123,000 shall be rural. There will be an affordable plan offering that is priced substantially less than other available in-home broadband service, with no contract, no equipment charges, no installation charges, and no surprises.

Job promises will also have to be kept, without weaseling the numbers

New T-Mobile shall have a net increase in jobs in California, such that the number of full time and full-time equivalent New T-Mobile employees in the State of California at three years after the close of the transaction shall be at least 1,000 greater than the total number of full-time and full-time equivalent employees of Sprint, Assurance Wireless and T-Mobile in the State of California as of the date of the Transaction closing.

The proposed decision also has the CPUC hiring, and T-Mobile paying for, a person (or perhaps, company) to continually monitor compliance with all the conditions. T-Mobile would also have to regularly submit data and reports detailing its efforts.

California attorney general Xavier Becerra also announced a settlement with T-Mobile yesterday. The agreement puts additional California-specific obligations on T-Mobile.

The draft CPUC decision doesn’t directly address anti-trust issues generally, nor does it have anything specific to say about what DISH might or might not do with the assets it will get from T-Mobile. Those are federal problems…

We accept the conclusion of the [federal justice department] that creating a fourth national carrier will over time offset, at the national level, the loss of competition resulting from T-Mobile’s purchase of Sprint. In reaching this conclusion, we note that it accords with the February 11, 2020 decision of the federal district court in the Southern District of New York finding in favor of defendant wireless companies in the anti-trust action brought by a consortium of states.

The 20-day public comment period on the draft is now open. Assuming there are no further glitches, the CPUC will take up the proposed decision at its 16 April 2020 meeting.

Proposed Decision Granting T-Mobile Application and Approving Wireless Transfer Subject to Conditions, 11 March 2020
Attachments 1 to 5
Opinion of the Attorney General on Competitive Effects of Proposed Merger of T-Mobile USA, Inc. And Sprint Communications Company L.P. (attachment 5 to proposed CPUC decision, dated 11 March 2020)
Settlement Agreement between T-Mobile and the State of California, 9 March 2020

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.

Mobile video viewing outruns desktops, is network capacity the next casualty?

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Brightcove 2q2019 global video index

Demand for mobile bandwidth continues to boom, as mobile devices overtake desktop computers as the streaming video device of choice for the first time, according to a study by Brightcove, a maker of online video tools and platform services which also makes a habit of tracking such things.

Their Global Video Index for the second quarter of 2019 shows that more than half of global video viewing they can monitor is done on a smartphone (mostly) or tablet (not so much). A year ago, that honor belonged to desktops. Brightcove doesn’t specifically place laptop computers in either category, but since they are specific about what they consider to be mobile – tablets and phones – a fair assumption is that they belong to the desktop universe.

Mobile networks are carrying a growing slice of an ever bigger pie, according to the report…

Worldwide mobile traffic nearly doubled during 2018, and mobile video traffic is forecast to increase at a [compound annual growth rate] of 34% through 2024. That’s really not too surprising, as mobile video has been a significant driver of the video ecosystem since the iPad debuted in 2010…

Over the past 12 months, video views on phones and tablets have overtaken desktop views among Brightcove’s media customers globally, making up 53% of all video views compared to 47% for desktop computers.

Mobile phone share increased to 45.4% from 38.5% a year ago, an increase of 18% Y/Y. Tablet share was, essentially, flat at 7.5% from 7.9% a year ago. Overall video views for tablets and phones were up nearly 62% for the 12-month period.

The company is counting on new 5G services to carry this increasing load. It’s not a revelation – that’s the reason that mobile carriers are pushing policy makers – federal, state and local – to clear the road for their planned deployments. It’s also a reminder that 5G is first and foremost about keeping pace with the growth in mobile traffic of all kinds, and particularly video. Carriers have to run as hard and fast as they can just to keep up with demand from the customers and applications they support now. Innovations such as self driving cars and the Internet of things can follow, but only after they take care of their core business.

Salinas, AT&T sign master pole license agreement with small cell design standards and $750 annual rent, sorta

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Downtown salinas

AT&T and the City of Salinas hedged their bets and signed a master license agreement for attaching small cell sites to city-owned poles that complies with current Federal Communications Commission guidelines, but snaps back to market-based fees if those rules are changed, or overruled by a federal court.

Last year, the FCC declared that municipal assets installed along roads or otherwise in the public right of way, like street light poles or traffic aren’t really city (or county) property, but instead are part of the right of way itself. In California, that would mean that mobile broadband companies could hang wireless antennas and other equipment on street lights at will, simply by filing for an encroachment permit. The FCC said any fees have to based on cost, not market prices, and it decided that $270 per year is what a city’s costs should be. It has since backed away from some of the restrictions it wants to impose, as it defends its ruling against lawsuits filed by dozens of cities.

Under the terms of the deal, if the FCC’s preemption of local street light pole ownership survives the federal appellate court challenge underway in San Francisco, then AT&T will pay the City of Salinas a “monitoring fee” of $270 per pole per year to install “small wireless facilities”. If it’s overturned, then a license fee will kick in, raising the yearly total AT&T has to pay Salinas for each pole to $750 for the first year, with a 2.5% annual increase in the license fee portion after that.

$750 per year falls in the middle of the average range for city pole rental fees in California, although it’s less than typical rates in the San Francisco Bay Area, which tend to be in the $1,500 per year ballpark. Unless the ballpark is in San Francisco proper – $4,000 is common there.

AT&T also agreed to follow particular construction standards for small cell installation on city-owned poles. It will…

  • Follow the City of Salinas’ small cell design standards, which limit antenna enclosures to twice the width of and no more than 20% higher than an existing pole, require equipment to be located underground or mounted on poles, and set standards, including anti-graffiti measures, for screening everything.
  • Cooperate with the City on pre-approval of standard small cell designs that can then be deployed quickly and widely.
  • Not install small cell facilities on traffic lights, or any pole “supporting signs or devices used to control or direct…traffic”.
  • Abide by the City of Salinas’ Dig Once policy, which could require AT&T to use existing conduit or fiber routes in some circumstances, and allows notices to go out to other companies that might be interested in participating in projects that involve excavating city streets.

It’s City policy to support 4G mobile network upgrades and 5G deployments so “Salinas businesses can remain economically competitive” and “residents have the ability to access resources (including educational resources) that are available through the Internet”. Its efforts aren’t limited to promoting better mobile service. As part of its Dig Once program, the City installs conduit in its own road projects and made broadband infrastructure upgrades a top priority for its economic development initiatives, particularly in Salina’s Ag Tech Corridor and downtown area.

I’m a consultant to the City of Salinas and assisted with the development of its broadband policy and agreements. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

Master License Agreement for Wireless Installations on Public Structures, by and between the City of Salinas and AT&T, 13 August 2019
City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Authorising Mayor to Sign AT&T Master License Agreement, 13 August 2019
City of Salinas, Staff Report, License of City Facilities for Small Cell Sites, 13 August 2019

City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Small Wireless Facility Regulations, 2 April 2019
City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Small Wireless Facility Fees, 2 April 2019
City of Salinas, Staff Report, Small Wireless Facility Regulations and Fees, 2 April 2019

City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Wireless Telecommunications Facility Lease Policy, 17 April 2018
City of Salinas, City Council Staff Report, Wireless Telecom Leasing Policy, 17 April 2018

City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Policy Reducing Underground Excavation for Communications Infrastructure within the City Right Of Way, 15 November 2016
City of Salinas, Staff Report, Reducing Underground Excavation for Communications Infrastructure within the City Right Of Way, 15 November 2016

5G phone prices start high while 5G availability is low

by Steve Blum • , , ,

5g mwca 12sep2018

The first 5G capable smart phones are beginning the hit the market, and already there’s wailing about sticker shock – a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G will cost $1,300 and only be available through Verizon, at least for the next few months. That’s a lot of money for an Android phone (although not exactly nosebleed territory for iOS fans). But it doesn’t say much about what it’s going to cost the average consumer to upgrade to 5G, by the time the average consumer can find 5G service.

The initial price of 5G phones isn’t indicative of anything except manufacturers starting at the top of the marginal price curve and getting ready for a quick downhill run. As manufacturing ramps up, and product bugs are squashed, the price will come down.

The first target market is technophiles – people who will buy it because it’s new tech. That’s probably a six-figure market in the U.S. They’ll pay the most. Second target market is early adopters – people who perceive a significant benefit from the increased performance 5G phones presumably will offer. That market is probably in the seven figure range. By the time 5G phones break out into the general market – eight and nine figures – price points will be in familiar, 4G territory.

Hardware and service adoption will follow service availability, and that will be the limiting factor for 5G uptake over the next two to three years. There’s very little 5G service available right now, and commercial-scale deployments won’t begin until next year. What we’re seeing from carriers now are pilot projects aimed at preparing for the buildout that’ll begin in 2020 and continue for the next five to ten years.

There’s no need for manufacturers to rush into 5G production or push down phone prices in the coming year. They’re wisely positioning themselves for the long haul.

5G phones must clear economic, technical hurdles before breaking into the mass market

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

The market for new smartphones is slowing. The global market is approaching saturation, where everyone who might use one has one, and annual sales are dropping. The pace of improvements is slowing, too. The marginal attraction of new apps and more powerful and faster hardware is diminishing.

According to a story in Digital Trends by Andy Boxall, the tide turned last year…

In 2018, smartphone sales numbers stopped growing, according to two data analysis companies, Strategy Analytics and Counterpoint Research. Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston wrote in his guide to the latest figures that it’s the “first time ever in history the global smartphone market has declined on a full year basis. It is a landmark event”…

This was a five-percent drop over the 1.51 billion sold in 2017, and when you’re talking about billions of phones, a five-percent drop is relatively substantial.

That’s a problem for smartphone manufacturers, but hope is on the horizon. 5G networks need 5G-capable smartphones, and over the next five years that will be the primary driver of upgrades and new phone sales.

I don’t expect to see anything significant in 2019, and only the bleeding edge, technophile segment will be significant in 2020. What happens after that depends on how mobile carriers address two problems, one economic and one technical.

A mass market stampede toward 5G phones won’t happen until mass market 5G service is available. That build out will happen slower than mobile carriers have led city councils and county boards of supervisors to believe. And it will be far from comprehensive – the true benefits that will justify a kilobuck smartphone purchase will only be available in urban areas with high revenue potential for carriers.

The big technical question that hasn’t been answered is battery life. 5G service requires more intensive processing, which burns up energy, as do faster bit rates generally. The first units on the market won’t be optimised – can’t be until real consumers start using and abusing them in the wild – so it will be at least another year – 2021 – before manufacturers and carriers really understand power budgets. But 5G smartphones will burn through battery life faster than 4G phones, and that’s a problem yet to be solved.