I haven't been on a plane in a while, so I thought I'd see if the world has made any big advances in that issue where you arrive 15 minutes early and then spend 45 minutes waiting for a gate. Also, I'm headed to D.C. to connect with my Axios colleagues.
Meanwhile, if you're a student or young professional in New York, you can have a drink with Axios tomorrow evening, Dec. 5. Free drinks, snacks, networking and a conversation about the future of news and media is worthy of your time. Bring a friend and RSVP here.
1 big thing: What's happening in 5G next year
The first 5G networks will start showing up in the coming months and the rhetoric is heating up.
Yes, but: 5G's arrival in your life will depend on your phone, city and choice of carriers — and for most Americans, the new network lies beyond the immediate future.
Why it matters: 5G networks will offer faster speeds and shorter delays, but will require you to purchase a new cellphone and have service available in your area. Some phone makers, like Apple, may not even support 5G until 2020.
What's happening: Next year all 4 major U.S. carriers will have 5G service available in some cities, with support for a range of smartphones.
- AT&T has said it will launch a 5G network yet this year, along with a mobile hotspot. Smartphone support will arrive next year.
- Verizon has launched 5G service in a Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento — but not for phones. Instead, Verizon is using an early version of 5G this year to offer an alternative to cable for home broadband. Smartphone service is coming next year.
- T-Mobile says it plans to offer 5G smartphone service next year to customers in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Las Vegas.
- Sprint has said it will offer 5G smartphone service in 9 cities by the first half of next year.
What's not happening: Nationwide 5G coverage will take some time. Also, don't expect a 5G-compatible Apple iPhone next year. Apple has always preferred to take their time with new cellular technologies, allowing the standards to mature, battery-life impact to be minimized, and coverage to be more widespread.
The latest: Verizon and Samsung announced Monday that they will work together to make a flagship 5G phone available in the first half of next year.
What's next: Expect fresh details on 5G plans this week as Qualcomm hosts a technology summit in Maui (livestream here). Qualcomm is set to show off the chip that will power the earliest 5G phones, while leading carriers will have live demo networks to show 5G in action.
"We're going to show this technology is here," Qualcomm's Cristiano Amon tells Axios. "5G is here. We are just months away."
The bottom line: Network transitions often shake up competitive races in tech, and how 5G shakes out will be especially important in the battle between Apple and Android. Just how big that gap will be between having/not having 5G in 2019 will depend on several factors, including...
- How much consumers will value faster connections.
- How hard the carriers will push those phones that have 5G in order to build business on those new networks.
- Whether the 5G phones involve tradeoffs around size and battery life.
2. Darker 2019 financial forecast for Big Tech
A potential recession, combined with increasing regulatory threats for some of the biggest tech companies, could make for a difficult 2019 for the tech industry.
Why it matters: The biggest tech companies have already raked in billions of dollars in profits and benefited from major tax cuts that aren't going to be repeated, so next year isn't likely to be better for them financially.
- They've also been dogged by scandals that have left many questioning their positive role in society. Plus, if the economy starts to slip, the combination of these factors mean 2019 could be worse.
Big Tech is closing out a contentious year in Washington. A slowing economy could increase the pressure on Congress and regulators to take action.
"People look for scapegoats in a bad economy. And with big tech already on its heels, a downturn probably would feed arguments that the largest internet companies are too big and need to be reined in."— Paul Gallant, analyst, Cowen Washington Research Group
Go deeper: Axios' David McCabe, Sara Fischer and Courtenay Brown have more here.
3. Tumblr's adult content ban raises outcry
Verizon's decision to ban adult content on Tumblr was the talk of Twitter on Monday, with a range of mockery, criticism and derision.
What they're saying:
- The Verge's Julia Alexander: "in an effort to squash a legitimate problem, tumblr is going to destroy a big part of what makes its site accessible to people coming to terms with their sexuality, looking to explore, find a community, and participate in cultures that otherwise don't seem participatory online."
- Drew Olanoff: "Breaking: Tumblr will have no content left on December 17th."
- Olympic medal-winning skier Gus Kenworthy: "If anybody wants to hang out after December 17th my schedule just totally opened up..."
The bottom line: Kidding aside, Tumblr — which hosted much of the web's alternative culture before Yahoo (and then Verizon) acquired it — will be losing a big part of its remaining identity.
4. Microsoft expands rural internet quest
Microsoft last summer promised to partner with small, rural ISPs to make broadband available to 2 million people who don’t have access.
Background: The program, known as Airband, would use a mix of technologies, including vacant broadcast airwaves called TV White Spaces, to cobble together connectivity.
Today, Microsoft’s Brad Smith is in D.C. to announce the company is raising its goal to reach 3 million rural Americans by 2022, Axios' Kim Hart reports.
- “Closing the broadband gap will require a focused and comprehensive solution that combines private sector capital investment in innovative technologies with targeted financial and regulatory support from the public sector,” Smith writes in a blog post this morning.
Beyond building out connectivity, the consumer devices necessary to tap into the broadband networks also must be affordable.
- Smith says that 18 months ago TV white spaces connectivity devices cost more than $800. Today, they cost less than $300. As prices continue to fall and demand increases, “the market will become self-sustaining," he adds.
Be smart: Microsoft’s Airband plan still needs a green light from the FCC to make use of all the unlicensed white spaces airwaves it needs to realize its goal.
- And if broadcasters continue to raise concerns — they worry opening up those frequencies will cause interference to their TV broadcasts on adjacent frequencies — the FCC’s decision could take a while.
5. Startup wants to franchise e-scooters
Superpedestrian, a Boston-based startup best known for its Copenhagen Wheel, a system that turns a regular bike into an electric one, now wants to sell a commercial-grade electric scooter to fleet operators, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
The big picture: When scooters suddenly took over U.S. streets earlier this year, setting up a scooter rental company looked easy, thanks to manufacturers like Segway-Ninebot.
But that’s not so much the case any more, given the growing number of problems with the vehicles, including faulty scooters that were recalled, designs that couldn't sustain commercial use, and supply shortages.
Access to a large supply of scooters is becoming a real advantage for companies, and some are coming up with creative business models, such as franchising them.
- Last week, Bird announced it’s rolling out a program through which small entrepreneurs or existing businesses can rent out a number of its scooters, label them with their own brands, use a network of contract charging and repair workers, and keep 80% of the revenues.
Go deeper: Kia has more here.
6. Take Note
- Qualcomm's Snapdragon Technology Summit takes place today through Thursday in Maui (see above).
- 3D capture company Matterport hired former eBay executive RJ Pittman as its new CEO.
- Monument Policy Group is opening a West Coast office in San Francisco, to be led by former TechNet VP Gideon Lett.
- Who's been breached this time? Question-answering site Quora. (Axios)
- Apple debuted a web store where veterans and active U.S. military troops can save 10% on most purchases. (USA Today)
- Google removed two apps from Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech after an internal investigation found evidence of ad fraud. BuzzFeed News had earlier reported on the issue. (BuzzFeed)
- Bill Gates offered up his end-of-year reading list, featuring a guide to mindfulness and meditation, the story of a woman who grew up in a Mormon survivalist household, the tale of Theranos' undoing and a book on the future of autonomous weaponry. (Gates Notes)