At $20,000/per, great where you have backhaul and power. Capex budgets are artificially constrained at most telcos. Wall Street is demanding higher dividends and lower capex, even where irrational. Verizon, AT&T, Vodafone and Telefonica have all reassured the street they will keep capex down. 

Small cells have been the next big thing for years, but I haven't seen many of them. Christos Karmis of Mobilitie tells me that's changing dramatically in 2016 and with a salesman's enthusiasm predicts 1,000,000 by 2020. Sprint is planning 70,000 small cells, while Verizon and T-Mobile have talked big plans.

Some will be indoors, more likely to be called Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS,) especially in large buildings impractical to fully cover from outside. Some of those outdoors will also be called DAS, some counted as cell sites. From here on, cell site figures will be impossible to compare. Capex budgets will become even fuzzier than they are today. Many of the small cells, indoor and out, are being installed by third parties like Mobilitie.

 Telcos can increase capacity with small cells (densification); putting more spectrum to use (carrier aggregation); adding antennas (MIMO and Massive MIMO); network sharing; and half a dozen other techniques. Verizon, Sprint, & T-Mobile claimed they've doubled speeds by adding a second, 20 MHz carrier. Deutsche Telekom just announced a field test with 5 carriers for over a gig. Softbank has deployed 43 cell sites with 128 antenna Massive MIMO, claiming an improvement of 6-10x. Somewhere around 2022-2025, highband 5G will become a common choice. Verizon will bring highband to the field in 2017 or 2018, but few expect significant volume before next decade.

 Everyone has a different opinion on which will be dominant. The answer is "none." Different telcos will make different choices in different locations. Softbank in Japan jumped ahead on Massive MIMO. Masa-san is fearless about new technology and new sites in Japanese cities are difficult. Softbank owned Sprint may go first to 4 & 5 carrier aggregation. They have over 100 MHz in most U.S. cities currently unused. Verizon will jump ahead with 5G highband to replace some totally obsolete DSL. It's great pr, even if the actual build will be small for years. 

Karmis has installed small cells at the Kentucky Derby (200,000 seats,) major buildings, and sports arenas. He works with all the major carriers so is well informed. It was a pleasure to talk with him. In 40 minutes, he gave me clear answers to a slew of questions in a field I didn't know well. 

The real experts- the CTOs of the major companies - will tell you they aren't sure. 

dave ask


Rethinking Jan 27: Coronavirus could invalidate all projections. I reported on AIDS for 2 years. This could be worse because it spreads in air. Let us hope and pray.

Details on all 5G phones, as prices drop to $285 ** All actual 5G networks worldwide ** Facebook ordered to repost Italian fascist page. ** Apple China sales down 35%** Qorvo sees 300M 5G 2020 & 750M 2023 mmWave <10%

** Bharti demands India Gov more than double prices and enforce cartel. Sunil Mittal "Situation is dire. It is a matter of survival for everyone." ** Wi-Fi 6 meets ITU 5G criteria @stephenjcrowley ** Samsung $8B for Chinese memory plants ** Morgan paying billions for Altice fiber

Dec 10 Sprint bringing $300-500 5G phones to US 2020. Nokia, Lenovo, HMD ** H., Apple, and AMD doing 5 nm test runs on TSMC's 5 nm. Early results are 15-30% better than 7 nm ** AT&T low-band 5G built to >65% US. Speeds slower than 4G at launch. ** 

Verizon CEO Ronan Dunne: >1/2 VZ 5G "will approximate to a good 4G service" Midband in "low hundreds" Mbps ** CFO John Stephens says AT&T is going to cut capex soon. ** Huawei in 16 days sold 1,000,000 5G Mate 20s.  


Welcome  Asia is installing hundreds of thousands of 5G radios and adding 5G subs by the tens of millions. The west is far behind. 200,000,000 in 2020

The demand is there, and most of the technology works. Meanwhile, the hype is unreal. Time for reporting closer to the truth.

I'm Dave Burstein, Editor. I've been reporting telecom since 1999. I love to hear from readers, especially when you find an error.

Also see,