Welcome to our weekly mailbag edition of The Bleeding Edge. All week, you submitted your questions about the biggest trends in technology. Today, I’ll do my best to answer them.
If you have a question you’d like answered next week, be sure you submit it right here.
How to spot a 5G tower…
First up is a question on how to track the 5G network rollout the old-fashioned way…
Hi Jeff, I am a subscriber to all your publications. This weekend, I was traveling the interstates through major cities, and I thought that I would have a look to see which had 5G towers and thus how the build-out was progressing.
However, I found it very difficult to determine which towers were 5G and which were not. Would you be so kind as to publish a picture of a new 5G tower with a background that will enable me to tell how it appears in a typical location relative to its size and antenna structure?
– Paul W.
Thanks for being such a dedicated reader, Paul. It’s great to see your kind of boots on the ground research – something I’m a big believer in.
5G wireless networks have a fundamentally different architecture compared to 4G or even 3G. 5G’s unique design is a “small cell architecture.” That means smaller antennas and base stations – but a whole lot more of them.
Due to this different architecture, these smaller 5G antennas and base stations can be easy to miss.
Here’s an example from Nokia. This is the 5G-enabled Nokia AirScale Base Station. And as you can see, it fits on the roof of a building.
Nokia AirScale Base Station
This is a stark contrast to the massive towers we use today to enable our 4G wireless networks. You can spot those towers from a mile away.
And to be clear, 5G networks will still use those tall towers currently used by 4G, but from there, the 5G networks will be expanded using this small cell architecture.
The photo above shows a “large” 5G base station on top of a building. But there will also be even more briefcase-sized antennas located above ground, underground (in the case of subways or parking garages), and inside of office buildings.
Today, there are about 200,000 4G cell phone towers scattered across the U.S. When the 5G network is constructed, there will be more than 1,000,000 of these small cell stations to support the higher bandwidth, higher speeds, and new services delivered over 5G.
Why fiber optics are still a key part of 5G…
Let’s continue with another 5G question and address a common misconception about wireless networks…
Dear Jeff, Our city (pop. 33,000) is about to spend millions of tax dollars to install a fiber-optic backbone and connections to every residence and business. The city officials claim that this is the only way high-speed internet can be provided.
My questions: With 5G wireless on the near horizon, will we be wasting money on an unnecessary technology? Will 5G obviate the need to make physical fiber-optic connections? Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and your awesome research.
– Stephen J.
Hi, Stephen. Glad to hear you’re enjoying my research.
If your town is planning to install fiber-optic lines to every home, then that’s an impressive feat and one that will benefit most residents and businesses in both the near and long term.
When I was living in Japan, almost the entire country had access to 1 Gbps (gigabit per second) speeds over fiber delivered right to homes and apartments. It was incredible… and a competitive advantage on a national level.
When I returned to the U.S. in late 2016, I felt like I had stepped back into the Stone Age. It was a painful transition. Whether we like to be “connected” or not, in today’s world, it has become a necessity. I’m encouraged when cities take the leap and make the investment.
But back to your questions: Will 5G make fiber-optic lines obsolete? The answer is not at all. The reality is that the radio frequency spectrum that 4G and 5G wireless networks are deployed on is finite. It is very limited.
Even though 5G speeds will increase a hundredfold, the spectrum in use will not increase by that magnitude. And spectrum is directly related to how much bandwidth/traffic a wireless network can handle.
This is why fiber-optic networks are so critical to wireless network deployments. Fiber-optic networks don’t have a finite spectrum problem. The bandwidth available over fiber is magnitudes larger compared to the wireless networks.
Many consumers think that their phone calls hop from cell phone tower to cell phone tower until they reach the person on the other end of the line. It’s not entirely illogical. After all, these are “wireless” networks after all.
But the reality is different. To deliver a high-quality data service or phone call over a wireless network, the call has to be routed to a fiber-optic network as soon as possible.
That’s because fiber-optic lines send data at the speed of light. So data is sent and received with virtually no delay. This is what enables us to have phone calls without delay, even when we are speaking with someone halfway around the world. And this delay will drop by about 99% with 5G compared to 4G… It will sound like the person on the end of the line is next door.
The reality is that when data is transmitted through a wireless network, less than 1% of that distance is transmitted wirelessly.
Here’s a visualization of how a wireless call actually takes place…
So as we can see, fiber networks won’t become outdated with 5G. They’ll be critical to 5G’s success. In fact, without them, 5G wireless networks would quickly become congested just like the 4G wireless networks are today.
Stephen, I see you’re a reader of my small-cap investing service, Exponential Tech Investor. I published some research on an investment recommendation around this theme earlier this year. You can read the full write-up here. I hope you find the information useful.
How to “drink from a fire hose”
Let’s conclude with a question that I’m sure several readers are asking themselves…
Jeff Brown. The information you’re generating makes me feel like I’m trying to drink from a fire hose. I feel you are one of the few people who really knows what’s going on in the high-tech world. I’d like to follow your recommendations but am having difficulty doing so.
– Barry B.
Barry, I see you’re a subscriber to all three of my research products: The Near Future Report, Exponential Tech Investor, and Early Stage Trader. Thanks for being such a dedicated subscriber.
I know the amount of research I publish can seem overwhelming. With the help of my team, every month I publish two monthly issues with complete portfolio updates, several trading recommendations, and even a free newsletter every weekday.
That might feel like a lot of content, but there is so much happening in the world of technology right now. Even with all my publications, I still pick and choose the timeliest insights and recommendations to share.
But there are a few easy steps you can take if you haven’t already. These should help you keep track of all the content you pay to receive.
Set up an email folder exclusively for your content. This way your technology issues will all be stored in one place rather than getting buried in your inbox.
Sign up for our text alert services. Exponential Tech Investor and Early Stage Trader both offer text alert services. Whenever there is a new piece of content, I alert subscribers via text. If you haven’t signed up for these alerts already, you can find out how under “subscriber resources” in the online portal for your services (go here and here).
Keep track of our publishing schedule. This way, you’ll know when to expect your content and can look for it during on each publishing date. You can view our publishing schedule here.
Let me also remind you of a key element of my publications. I have designed all of my research to be complementary to each other with basically no overlap.
This relates to portfolio allocation (or asset allocation). Each individual investor must decide what percentage of their investable assets is allocated to each asset class.
The Near Future Report is designed for large-capitalization growth stocks. These are safer, buy-and-hold recommendations that we intend to hold more than 12 months for long-term capital gains.
Exponential Tech Investor focuses on higher-risk but much-higher-reward technology companies. These are usually small-capitalization or sometimes micro-capitalization companies that we want to invest in before Wall Street understands their value. Again, this is a buy-and-hold strategy. We expect to hold these positions for more than 12 months to capture long-term capital gains.
Early Stage Trader is a trading service. I designed the system to enable users to trade on high-probability speculations in early stage companies. Our goal is triple-digit gains in less than a year on all positions. So we’ll be in and out of trades in a matter of months.
Each investment approach fills out an important part of an overall asset allocation model. I’m also working on new investment methodologies to give my readers access to other segments of the technology market. My goal is to further create a complete portfolio allocation model.
And my team and I are developing new features that will make it easy for subscribers like you to find all your content in one place. Some things are in the works now. Expect more details in the months ahead. In short, your user experience is going to get even better.
Thanks again for your question. The truth is, I’m also drinking from the fire hose every day. Even with 30 years under my belt in high technology, the pace of technological development makes me feel like I need to work even harder to keep up.
That’s all the time we have this week. If you have any questions, remember to submit them here, and I’ll do my best to get to them next week.
Editor, The Bleeding Edge