5G Will Severely Erode or End Value of "Paid Prioritization"

Is there value in packet prioritization--paid or not--in the 5G era? The prioritized packets value proposition has been latency improvement. When a 5G network routinely has latency in single-digit milliseconds, is prioritization still needed, and if so, for what apps?

The point is that the feared “packet blocking and throttling” still is barred by Federal Communications Commission policy, while “paid prioritization” has a slim window for relevance until 5G arrives.

The stated fears about removing common carrier regulation from internet access will prove misplaced.

As often is the case, telecom regulators and industry executives do not agree on the impact of regulations.  EU Commissioner Andrus Ansip, for example, does not believe network neutrality rules hamper investment in 5G.

Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm, on the other hand, believes such rules will prevent the creation of new 5G services. “The principle of net neutrality is not to discriminate [against], throttle or degrade based on content but not all traffic is created equally and we don't believe this will work in the 5G future," said Ekholm.  "There will be a need for a regulatory regime that allows service providers to create services that are differentiated based on user experience."

On the other hand, arguments can be made that some feared consumer internet practices, such as content blocking, app throttling or paid prioritization will emerge in the United States.

Content blocking or app throttling still are prohibited as continuing Federal Communications Commission policy, and will be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. Paid prioritization might have little value as consumer internet speeds climb towards gigabit levels and latency drops in the advanced 4G era and 5G era towards a few milliseconds.

Under such conditions, little value is provided by a consumer paid prioritization scheme. Where, one might ask, is the business value when speeds routinely are in hundreds of megabits per second, up to gigabits per second, and latency is in single digits?

That is precisely what is coming in the 5G era.

5G-NR radio networks boosted device speeds an order of magnitude in 100 MHz of 3.5 GHz spectrum, while latency also improved by an order of magnitude (10 times), in simulations conducted by Qualcomm.

In a separate simulation using 800 MHZ of 28-GHz spectrum, browsing speeds increased by two orders of magnitude, while latency improved by two orders of magnitude.

The 3.5-GHz test, conducted in Frankfurt, increased end user speeds from 56 Mbps for the median 4G user to more than 490 Mbps for the median 5G user. Latency dropped from 116 milliseconds to 17 milliseconds.

The San Francisco simulation boosted browsing speeds from 71 Mbps for the median 4G user to 1.4 Gbps for the median 5G user.

Browsing download latency dropped  from 115 ms to 4.9 ms.

In both simulations, existing cell site locations in Frankfurt and San Francisco were used, where 5G NR cell sites are co-located with actual, existing LTE sites.

The point is that the value of packet prioritization diminishes as the routine performance of a mobile network increases.

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