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5G won't fix America's terrible broadband

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5G cellular networks are able to transmit data at very high speeds, with incredible spectrum sharing that allows multiple 5G towers to operate in close proximity without their transmissions clobbering one another. There's only one problem: for 5G to deliver high speeds to our homes and businesses, each of those 5G towers has to be fed by a high-speed link -- like, say, the fiber optic links that America's ISPs have been vastly underinvesting in (while getting state laws passed that ban cities from picking up the slack) for decades. Putting a 5G tower next to your house will only help you if the 5G tower is connected to a fast internet pipe. Basically, 5G is fiber to the curb with wireless distribution over the final few yards, the very thing that America's telcoms sector is pathologically allergic to, and incapable of delivering on. There are those who say that the way the cellular companies will handle future growth is through millimeter wave spectrum. However, that technology will require a fiber-fed small cell site near to every home. We really need to stop referring to millimeter wave spectrum as 5G wireless and instead call it what it is – fiber-to-the curb. When thought of that way, it’s easy to realize that there are no carriers likely to make the investment to deploy that much fiber along every residential street in America. Wireless 5G fiber-to-the-curb is not coming to most neighborhoods. The bottom line is that the world is not going to go wireless, and anybody saying so is engaging in hyperbole and not reality. Read the rest

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