McAdams On: 5G Streaming

I tried to stream a Disney cartoon last night in 1080p. Vudu said, “Not enough bandwidth.”

I tried HD.




I pay $100 a month for broadband that increasingly does not stream media. I’m not alone. Fifteen thousand “Game of Thrones” fans were frozen out of HBO Now in June. This is notable when money is flooding into OTT.

We’ve been warned of “bandwidth bottleneck” for years, but advances in technology briefly kept up. No longer. Global internet traffic, according to the Aug. 10 issue of Nature, is growing at around 22 percent a year. Mobile demand, 53 percent.

That’s without everyone’s thermostat, refrigerator, automobile, home-security system and virtual-reality headset connected to it.

The problem is the “last mile” of mostly of copper and coax cables from an era before the internet, much less the one of “Things.” Cable and telco TV providers have done some fiber-to-the-premises, but deployments are targeted.

FTTP is “expensive and time-consuming,” Nature said. Even Google Fiber is looking at a 3.5 GHz wireless last mile, Telecompetitor said in February.

Meanwhile, 5G wireless technology—said to be 100 times faster than 4G—is on deck for a “limited commercial launch” by Verizon in 2017. The FCC also recently opened up frequencies above 28 GHz for 5G, and eliminated the “historic preservation review” for the smaller, more densely placed base stations that will transmit 5G at higher frequencies.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called 5G “a national priority,” and Nature makes the case that there is no IoT without 5G.

The largest media companies are putting their money on streaming over an overburdened infrastructure. Delivery will shift to the platform most able to handle it, and that increasingly appears to be fiber-to-5G on frequencies much higher than that of the 100 MHz of “beachfront” TV spectrum on sale now for $88 billion.