• Xiaomi issues its challenge to Tesla’s robot…
  • More developments in the Musk/Twitter saga…
  • A solution to the global food shortages…

Dear Reader,


They just want more. At any cost.

After spending more than $100 billion – in the U.S. alone – on spectrum for 5G networks over the last couple of years, they are clamoring for more.

Less than a month ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) kicked off Auction 108 in the 2.5 GHz band, to be used for 5G services. But it’s an odd auction that comes with an unusual history.

Back in the 1980s, this spectrum was issued to educational institutions. The individual spectrum grants, however, were limited to a 35-mile radius to the institution. Much of that spectrum went unused by these institutions, and one wireless carrier in particular – Sprint – systematically leased these spectrum allocations from the educational institutions.

But due to the limited radius of these spectrum grants, there was unused white space across the country in that spectrum band. The easiest way to imagine it is to envision a lake with lily pads scattered all over the lake. Auction 108 is an auction of the 2.5 GHz spectrum in that white space between the lily pads.

And that’s where this gets interesting… The construct of the FCC’s auction gives a clear advantage to T-Mobile over Verizon and AT&T, something that the latter two carriers have raised.

The issue at hand is that T-Mobile acquired Sprint back in the summer of 2019, and Sprint already has these valuable leases at 2.5 GHz. It’s almost as if the FCC wants T-Mobile to consolidate the 2.5 GHz spectrum band.

It is most certainly not a free market approach, but it will result in empowering T-Mobile to consolidate the 2.5 GHz spectrum band for future 5G services. I suspect that the government rationalizes this favoritism as “being good for consumers.”

Which brings us back to the need for “more.”

The reality is that 5G subscription uptake is notably faster than it was for 4G. Consumers have clearly proven to be hungry for the next major improvement in wireless technology. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering how central the use of smartphones is in everyday life…

This year 5G subscriptions will exceed 1 billion, and within five years, it is likely that 5G subscriptions will be the majority of all wireless subscriptions. And with more users comes more wireless data traffic:

In the last two years alone, data traffic has more than doubled – the definition of exponential growth. And I doubt this will come as a surprise, but 70% of all data traffic is video. Better yet, within five years, video will make up nearly 80% of data traffic.

Which is why the wireless industry is lobbying for more spectrum auctions. The U.S. government controls two-thirds of the spectrum between 3 GHz and 8.4 GHz. Some of it is heavily used, some of it is not.

This industry would like to gain access to 3.1–3.45 GHz, 4.4–4.94 GHz, and 7.125–8.4 GHz – the 3 GHz and 4 GHz bands being the most desirable.

We can think of these spectrum blocks just like highways. If there are a bunch of erratic drivers on the road, traffic jams and accidents are likely. With a highway full of experienced drivers, traffic can flow smoothly. But eventually, when the highway ingests too large a number of drivers, the traffic flow grinds to a halt.

The same is true for wireless networks. No matter how efficient the wireless technology is, even if the network is using artificial intelligence to optimize performance, there will always be a limit.

And that’s why the wireless carriers need MORE.

The home robotics race is on…

China’s largest smartphone manufacturer, Xiaomi, just revealed its new bipedal robot. It’s called CyberOne.

Here it is:

CyberOne’s Debut

Source: Xiaomi

Here we can see CyberOne walking and responding to questions at the same time. That indicates a certain level of functionality. But the robot’s agility is not very impressive… at least not compared to what we have seen from Boston Dynamics.

That said, CyberOne appears to be more focused on the employment of artificial intelligence (AI) rather than the agility and dexterity of the robot. More specifically, the robot is equipped with a vocal emotion identification engine.

Xiaomi claims this engine can identify 85 different types of environmental sounds. And it can pick up on 45 different classifications of human emotions. Assuming that’s accurate, it’s impressive.

Clearly, Xiaomi designed CyberOne to interact directly with humans. If this reminds us a little bit of Tesla’s bipedal robot Optimus, it should.

And the timing of this announcement was not a coincidence… Xiaomi wanted to get the jump on Tesla’s AI Day, scheduled for September 30.

Tesla will likely unveil more information on Optimus at the event. Elon Musk has recently alluded to being on target for having a functional prototype of Optimus ready by the end of this year.

As many Chinese companies do, Xiaomi measures itself against its American counterparts. We can see that clearly here.

So we’ll see how CyberOne stacks up against Optimus, in terms of functionality, in the coming days. I’m also interested to see how they compare in price.

Xiaomi is offering CyberOne between roughly $90,000 and $105,000. That puts it in the affordability range of many small- and medium-sized businesses and high-end consumers.

That also means the robot will cost significantly more than a new electric vehicle (EV) at first. EV costs averaged around $54,000 as of this May. That may be surprising to us.

But this almost certainly will be the case with Tesla’s Optimus also – and for good reason.

When it comes to manufacturing, the larger the volume of production, the less expensive each unit will be. That’s the benefit of manufacturing at scale.

And in the early days, Xiaomi will produce a relatively low volume of CyberOne robots. That’s why the price is so high at first. We can expect the same will be true for Tesla’s Optimus.

But as adoption ramps up, Xiaomi will be able to scale up production and lower prices. Ultimately, these robots will become less expensive than a car.

So the race for home robotics is now officially on. We’ll have more to share on Optimus after Tesla’s AI Day in September…

Where Elon Musk stands on Twitter and social media…

It’s been over a month since we talked about Elon Musk’s move to acquire Twitter. But there have been some interesting developments in just the last few days.

For starters, Twitter’s former head of security just came out with a whistleblower complaint. It claimed that Twitter prioritized user growth over combatting its problem with spam and bots. This came as Musk subpoenaed Twitter’s cofounder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, seeking more information.

So the saga is still ongoing.

If Musk’s legal team can prove that Twitter understated the severity of its bot problem, that would enable Musk to renegotiate the price of the acquisition at a valuation that represents the number of real active users, not bots, on the platform. 

This is not only a reasonable position to take… but an appropriate one. After all, who would agree to pay for “fake” subscribers?

At the same time, Musk just made a strategic financing move. Regulatory filings show that he sold nearly eight million shares of Tesla (TSLA). This raised nearly $7 billion in cash.

If we remember, Musk had some strategic backers to help finance the original Twitter proposal. He didn’t need to raise any extra cash to get the deal done.

So it appears Musk may be giving himself a little extra cushion here in case any of his partners want to back out from the deal, once the issues around real versus fake users have been resolved. That’s reasonable given what we now know about the extent of bots and spam on Twitter.

But there may be an additional motive at work here.

Musk has made comments suggesting that if the Twitter deal falls through, he may consider building his own social media network. He even has a site for it already: X.com.

If the Twitter deal doesn’t work, Musk now has the capital he would need to create his own social media platform from scratch. That would certainly be an interesting endeavor – and one that I’d be very interested in.

So this has certainly been an exciting case to follow. And we won’t have to wait too much longer for a conclusion.

The case goes to trial in October, which suggests that we’ll have clarity on whether or not the deal moves forward immediately after.

As for me, I’m still rooting for Musk to make the deal a success. I’ve noticed a sharp uptick in censorship and banning of scientists and researchers who have been sharing scientific research again… because of information that doesn’t fit the current political narrative. This kind of manipulation – and totalitarian control – of information has no place in a free and democratic society.

A novel solution to fertilizer and food shortages…

We’ll wrap up today with an incredible breakthrough on the chemistry front. It’s a brand-new way to make ammonia.

This may not sound terribly exciting on the surface, but it’s a fantastic solution for two problems we face globally – pollution and food shortages.

Ammonia isn’t a brand-new topic here at The Bleeding Edge. We talked about it last month when we discussed four ways to hedge against the chaos.

That’s because ammonia is a key element in fertilizer, making it critical for food production.

Up until this point, we have made ammonia using the Haber-Bosch process. It takes hydrogen gas from fossil fuel and then combines it with nitrogen to produce ammonia.

The problem is this process isn’t efficient.

In fact, the Haber-Bosch process consumes the equivalent of roughly 1% of the world’s total energy… That’s just to produce the ammonia we need for fertilizer.

Plus, the process produces an immense amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution.

And that’s where today’s breakthrough comes in… It has the potential to turn ammonia production into a clean and efficient process.

Chemists at Monash University just discovered a way to produce ammonia with almost 100% efficiency – with little to no waste.

And get this – the new process only uses nitrogen gas and electricity. This could dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

What’s more, the team used a small, portable device in this new process.

Here it is:

Ammonia-Producing Device

Source: Monash University

As we can see, this device can sit right on top of a table. That’s how small it is.

Yet it can produce several kilograms’ worth of ammonia for fertilizer a day. That’s enough to meet the demand for most individual farms.

A small device like this has the potential to make the fertilizer supply chain far more decentralized and robust. The days of Russia having an outsized influence on global fertilizer production are numbered.

To illustrate just how important this is, the war between Russia and Ukraine created massive fertilizer shortages this year. We’re already seeing reduced crop yields as a result.

To quantify this, fertilized corn fields can yield about 200 bushels of corn, while untreated ones yield just 60 bushels. That’s a 70% reduction in crop production.

And this is the dynamic we’re facing, come harvest time in the fall, thanks to fertilizer shortages.

We are going to experience food shortages; in fact, we already are. Shelves are consistently partially empty at my local supermarkets, as they are around the country. And things are much worse in developing markets.

That’s why this is such a timely breakthrough.

I envision a world where every farm has one of these devices sitting on the table. It can generate the fertilizer each farm needs to maximize crop yields… so we never have to worry about food shortages ever again. 


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge