Thinking about driverless cars? Don’t let your license lapse yet

I hate to drive. So I almost hate to share this passage from a recent post from Doug Dawson because I want driverless cars to happen so much – but not badly and it looks like driverless cars happening, especially in rural areas, soon would be bad…

A colleague sent me an article that had been published earlier this year in MachineDesign magazine that predicts that driverless cars can’t be realized until we have a ubiquitous 5G network. When looking for the original article on the web I noticed numerous similar articles like this one in Forbes that have the same opinion.

These articles and other similar articles predict that high-bandwidth, low-latency 5G networks are only a few years away. I’m not quite sure who these folks think will invest the $100 billion or more that would likely be required to build such a wireless network along all of the roads in the country. None of the cellular carriers have such grandiose plans, and if they did their stockholders would likely replace a management team that suggested such an investment.

Doug goes on to outline a number of practical reasons that 5G isn’t there and the investment isn’t likely; ending with…

Network engineers also would advise that for a critical task like driving at high speeds that every vehicle should have a redundant back-up connection, meaning a second wireless connection in case the first one has a problem. Anybody that puts critical tasks on a fiber network invests in such redundancy. Hospitals that use broadband as part of a surgical procedure or a factory that does precision manufacturing will have a second fiber connection to be safe. It’s hard to imagine a redundant connection for a moving car since the only place it can come from is the nearest cell sites that provide the primary connection.

I don’t know how other feel about this, but I’m not about to trust my life to a self-driving car that needs a connection to an external data center to be safe. I know too much about how broadband networks function to believe that 5G networks will somehow always make perfect connections when other fiber networks don’t.

Meeker Coop deploys Vibrant Broadband Meeker and parts of McLeod, Kandiyohi, Stearns, Wright and Renville counties

The Hutchinson Leader reports…

Meeker Cooperative’s big move to making its Vibrant Broadband internet service available to its customers throughout the county received praise Thursday from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

The governor attended a “ribbon cutting” ceremony at the cooperative’s headquarters in Litchfield during which he and other speakers said that internet connectivity today is as important as electricity was 80-some years ago when rural electric cooperatives began supplying that service.

“To the entire board of Meeker Cooperative, you embody what community means,” Walz said. “This harkens back to a time when running that final mile of power line was a big undertaking. There wasn’t an economy of scale that made sense, but what did make sense was the understanding of the economic engine that we could turn loose.”

There was a nod to the Coop’s board…

Meeker Cooperative CEO Tim Mergen said the cooperative began looking at the broadband project back in 2016, and credited the board of directors for backing it.

“They’re the ones that took the big risk to go ahead and say, ‘yeah, let’s go ahead and move this project forward,’” Mergen said. “They did what the board of directors did 84 years ago when the co-op was formed to bring electricity out to the area we now serve electricity to. it was a great big leap of faith then, it was a leap of faith now.”

And some info on the network…

Meeker Cooperative looked to change that in its service area, which includes Meeker and parts of McLeod, Kandiyohi, Stearns, Wright and Renville counties, when it announced in November that it had begun installing a fiber optic backbone, connecting its 14 substations throughout the county to provide Vibrant Broadband.

Darwin and Dassel were the first towns in the service area to receive the new technology on July 1. Mergen wrote in a column for the Meeker Pioneer — the cooperative’s monthly newsletter — that it would take about two years to complete countywide connections.

But it’s the start that many have been looking for – not just in Meeker County, but throughout the state, and even the nation.

In an earlier article the Hutchinson Leader reported on speeds they had seen with Vibrant…

In a test it conducted earlier this year, Meeker Cooperative found download speed with Vibrant Broadband is approximately 50 megabytes per second with an upload speed of about 8 megabytes per second, about double the speed provided by a competitor in the test.

That will help them get to the 2022 MN state speed goals, but not the 2026. However the fiber deployed to the towers helps bring fiber closer to the homes and that will help them reach the 2026 goals.

5G has a lot of moving pieces in Minnesota and beyond

Gov Tech outlines the “messy” rollout of 5G in Minnesota

The telecom industry is once again advancing the capacity and speed of its networks, something it has done once a decade since the cellphone’s invention in 1979. But differently from the previous jumps, the move to the fifth generation of network technology, simply called 5G, is caught up in geopolitical and health debates that are beyond the industry’s control.

The result is far more noise and confusion about the promise and perils of 5G, with the upgrade carrying greater than usual risk for companies and head-scratching choices for consumers.

The cells are there, the phones are not…

For the first time, Minnesota is in the middle of the action at the start of a generational change in telecom. Verizon, the nation’s largest cellphone service provider, has already put up 5G cells in the downtowns of both Minneapolis and St. Paul. And U.S. Bank Stadium is one of 13 around the NFL this year that will have 5G antennas beaming data to fans.

But it’s a chicken-and-egg business, with carriers doing just part of the work. Cellphone makers have to produce new phones that work on the new networks. At the moment, Twin Cities shoppers can get one 5G Samsung smartphone, at around $1,300, or modify a Motorola one with a special 5G attachment that costs $200.

It looks like there are two options – short range, super fast or mid-range…

And there’s a technical issue that shapes performance. Many 5G networks will use a portion of the radio spectrum where waves move at greater frequency. Those waves will have the most speed improvement, but they travel a shorter distance and can be blocked by walls and even trees. As a result, carriers must put up more antennas to send and receive them. Verizon and AT&T are using the higher-frequency technology, known as millimeter wave.

But T-Mobile appears likely to create a 5G network in a part of the spectrum where waves travel at what are known as mid-frequency rates. Its network may not be as speedy, but its signals may travel farther and contend with less interference.

There are concerns about health…

“There’s a great deal to be said for the speed of 5G when it’s wired and safe from any impact on the environment and public health,” she said. “More research needs to be done on how to make 5G safe in the ambient environment.”

CTIA 5G Futures

Oct 8, 2019
Minneapolis MN

For folks who aren’t heading to the Blandin Fall Broadband conference

5G will be transformative—making our lives better, our communities safer, and our country more prosperous. From new smartphone uses, automated vehicles, and the Internet of Things to remote healthcare, augmented and virtual reality, industrial automation and more, the innovations of the future will be built on 5G.

Join CTIA & the Minneapolis Regional Chamber at 5G Futures: Minneapolis to learn what our future holds from the companies making 5G a reality.

To learn more about CTIA and the wireless industry, please visit us at

Could 5G deployment impact weather reporting?

I am several degrees shy of my meteorologist degree. (OK – all credits shy.) But I found this fascinating. Evaluation Engineering reports that 5G may hinder the 10-day forecast…

The current adage in meteorology is that today’s 10-day weather forecast is as accurate as the seven-day used to be, which is as accurate as the five-day used to be in the 1990s, which is accurate as the three-day used to be in the 1980s. Those crucial extra forecast days gained over the years has allowed local governments to issue evacuations at least several days before hurricanes impact an area, and gives local services time to prepare for damaging impacts and the aftermath following the storm.

But according to many people involved with this forecasting, the onset of 5G technology could ruin that decades-long progress. This past May, the acting chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Neil Jacobs, testified on Capitol Hill that the interference from 5G wireless technology could reduce the accuracy of weather forecasting by as much as 30%. Jacobs told the House Subcommittee on the Environment that such a setback would result in coastal residence having at least two or three less days to prepare for a hurricane and could lead to less accurate predictions on the path of hurricanes and where they will make landfall, endangering lives by doing so. Jacobs said that’d set hurricane forecasts back to where they were in 1980.

Here’s the reason…

In a nutshell, the issue with 5G and weather forecasting comes from 5G’s use of spectrum in the 24 GHz frequency band, which is nearly that the 23.8 GHz spectrum band that NOAA uses to gather data for weather prediction. Some of the frequencies the Federal Communications Commission plans to use for 5G are located next to the only frequency where weather satellites can detect water vapor—a crucial component for weather forecasting, especially for hurricanes. …

Water vapor emits a faint 23.8 GHz signal in the earth’s atmosphere, which satellites monitor to collect data that is then fed into weather prediction models. That gives meteorologists no flexibility to use a different frequency.

“We can’t move away from 23.8 or we would,” Jordan Gerth, a research meteorologist at the Universifty of Wisconsin-Madison told WIRED in May. “As far as 5G is concerned, the administration has a priority to put 5G on the spectrum, and they thought this was an OK place to do it. It’s just close to where we are sensing the weather.”

Gerth and Jacobs said that reducing the power emitted by 5G wireless radios could help prevent some of spectrum-water vapor interference. NOAA and NASA want to limit interference noise to closer to that considered acceptable by the European Union and World Meteorological Organization. At its current FCC proposal, Jacobs said 5G interference would result in a 77% loss in data from NOAA satellite sensors.

It is interesting to me that the FCC is not in line with European Union and World Meteorological Organization standards. I would have thought there’s be more alignment with something like this. It sounds like more issues may come up – some will likely have a greater impact on Minnesota weather watchers…

But even if a compromise is met between the meteorological community and the FCC over the 23.8 GHz frequency used to track water vapor, it won’t be the last clash between those two sides. Down the road, the FCC plans to action off 5G radio frequency bands close to that used to detect rain and snow (36-37 GHz), atmospheric temperature (50.2-50.4 GHz), and clouds and ice (80-90 GHz). So, expect to hear similar news about these issues going forward.

Fast-Tracking the T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Undermines Public Interest

A press release from Next Century Cities

Fast-Tracking the T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Undermines Public Interest
Washington DC (August 14, 2019) — Today, Federal Communications Commission leadership recommended the approval of the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, a move that would further consolidate the wireless market and eventually raise prices for consumers.
T-Mobile and Sprint are two maverick companies that have competed head-to-head to offer innovative low-cost products to consumers and create a vital resale market. Combining the two would likely raise prices across the market, and would be particularly harmful for low-income consumers who rely on mobile service as their sole connection to the internet.
Both companies have told the FCC and Congress that the merger is necessary in order to build out next-generation wireless networks, yet have simultaneously touted independent 5G deployments to the public. It remains true that ultimately, competitive pressure — not consolidation — is what will drive network upgrades.
“The FCC’s charge is to protect the interest of the public, not of private companies,” said Cat Blake, Senior Program Manager. “This deal is good for T-Mobile and Sprint, but will ultimately make it harder for Americans to access affordable, high-quality essential mobile services. Further, it is unacceptable that the FCC would move to approve a deal without first soliciting public comment on the significant divestiture package required by the Department of Justice.
The public has a right to weigh-in on whether restructuring the deal with DISH would provide adequate consumer choice in the wireless market.”
A merger between T-Mobile and Sprint would be against the public interest. The FCC should follow the 16 state attorneys general in blocking the deal.

Minnesota is one of those states striving to block the deal.

Case Study on WISPS (Midco) also serves as a broadband primer

The Global Cities Challenge (GCTC) program is a collaborative platform for the development of smart cities and communities, led by National Institute of Standards and Technology, a bureau of U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with other U.S. federal agencies. It looks like one outcome of the challenge is a paper on WISPs (wireless internet service providers) – mostly on Midco.

I won’t go into the case study too much but there are elements that serve as an easy-to-read primer that would be helpful to anyone new-ish to the broadband world or anyone who need to help someone better understand the impact or broadband. Fr example, the new report gives a quick snapshot on the different broadband options…

Broadband connectivity can be provided by a variety of technologies. Each platform can offer unique attributes to meet specific needs. Wired networks boast security and resilience; fiber optics are often referred to as “future proof,” referring to the ability to increase capacity by adding electronic components at the physical ends of the fiber. Fixed wireless networks (described more fully in the Midco case study below) allow fiber providers to “edge out” their fiber connectivity by deploying fixed wireless equipment on local grain elevators, water towers, commercial towers, tall buildings, etc. and then backhauling that traffic to the fiber network. At the same time, mobile wireless technologies are necessary to support critical applications “on the move.” Mobile and fixed broadband services work in concert to provide comprehensive access to critical applications that support rural economic development, education and health care. As noted by the FCC, fixed and mobile broadband services, while not full substitutes for each other, are each “important services that provide different functionalities, tailored to serve different consumer needs.”4 The FCC has concluded that consumers require access to both wired and mobile services.5 However, even where a predominantly wireless solution may be a preferred solution due to terrain or other factors, wireless networks at their core require a wired infrastructure to convey traffic.6 Properly drafted policies can account for the need for both wired and wireless technologies, and can provide much-needed connectivity to rural America.

It then goes into detail on the impact on various aspects of life – healthcare, work , economic development and more. And of course you can learn a lot more about fixed wireless in the report. BUT sometimes I think these quick intros that provider very high level descriptions can be super useful.