T-Mobile shows off 5G network modeling tech in FCC meeting

T-Mobile cited numbers from some of its major vendors showing predictions of significant increases in mobile traffic in the coming years. (T-Mobile)

As T-Mobile works to obtain regulatory approval for its proposed merger with Sprint, the company’s top network executives provided FCC officials with a detailed look at how T-Mobile is preparing for 5G. Specifically, T-Mobile’s Neville Ray, Mark McDiarmid and Karri Kuoppamaki described how T-Mobile is preparing to predict 5G network usage and capacity.

Although much of T-Mobile’s presentation to the FCC was redacted, it contained a few noteworthy items:

  • The presentation appears to indicate that, by 2024, a merged Sprint and T-Mobile would handle 21 Exabytes of 5G offered traffic monthly.

  • A combined Sprint and T-Mobile, dubbed New T-Mobile by the companies, would be able to provide average throughput of 451 Mbps by 2024, and peak throughput of 4.2 Gbps.

  • In midband spectrum, 5G would provide 52% more spectral efficiency over LTE when using 4x4 MIMO.

  • New T-Mobile is assuming that 5G handset adoption will be significant starting in 2021. That’s not a surprise considering the first 5G handsets aren’t expected to hit the market until next year, and it often takes several years for the nation’s handset makers to fully adopt a new network technology.

  • Nokia, Ericsson and Cisco all expect mobile traffic to grow by around 7x between 2018 and 2024.

However, a large number of key slides in T-Mobile’s presentation to the FCC—including one tantalizingly called “calculation of loading and 5G user throughput—were redacted in the company’s public filing detailing the meeting.

The meeting between T-Mobile’s top network executives and FCC officials may stem from the FCC’s move last month to pause its informal 180-day transaction “shot clock” on its review of the proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. The agency said that it needed more time in part to review new documents the companies submitted outlining their network merger plan.

“The Applicants submitted a substantially revised network engineering model,” the agency wrote in a letter detailing the delay (PDF). “The newly provided network engineering model is significantly larger and more complex than the engineering submissions already in the record.

In T-Mobile’s filing detailing the company’s meeting this week with FCC officials, T-Mobile said that its network executives outlined the company’s network model in “three key steps: (1) determination of capacity, (2) quantification of forecasted customer demand and experience along with network congestion, and (3) application of solutions to mitigation network congestion,” T-Mobile said.

“The network model is built upon T-Mobile’s ordinary course practices and models standalone T-Mobile, standalone Sprint, and New T-Mobile for both LTE and 5G,” T-Mobile added. “5G functionality was developed to include congestion mitigation and quantification of user experience for 5G subscribers. The Applicants reviewed in detail the assumptions and methodologies utilized to develop the network model, as described in the presentation deck.”

Analysts are becoming increasingly convinced that the FCC, Department of Justice and other regulatory agencies will ultimately sign off on the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, albeit with possible divestitures and conditions. Sprint and T-Mobile have said they expect to close their merger sometime in the first half of next year.