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

Newsfeed

Vivo is selling new the iQOO 5G premium quality phone for US$536.

Lei Jun Xiaomi "5G to have explosive growth starting from Q2 2020"5G to have explosive growth starting from Q2 2020" I say sooner

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.

Bharti in India has lost 45M customers who did not want to pay the minimum USS2/month. It's shutting down 3G to free some spectrum for 4G. It is cutting capex, dangerous when the 12 gigabytes/month of use continues to rise.

Huawei in 16 days sold 1,000,000 5G Mate 20s.  

China has over 50,000 upgraded base stations and may have more than 200,000 by yearend 2019. The growth is astonishing and about to accelerate. China will have more 5G than North America and Europe combined for several years.

5G phone prices are down to $580 in China from Oppo. Headed under $300 in 2020 and driving demand.

No one believed me when I wrote in May, 90% of Huawei U.S. purchases can be rapidly replaced and that Huawei would survive and thrive. Financial results are in, with 23% growth and increased phone sales. It is spending $17B on research in 2019, up > 10%. 

5G phones spotted from Sharp and Sony

NTT DOCOMO will begin "pre-commercial service Sept 20 with over 100 live bases. Officially, the commercial start is 2020.

 More newsfeed

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Welcome  1,800,000 Koreans bought 5G in the first four months. The demand is there, and most of the technology works. Meanwhile, the hype is unreal. Time for reporting closer to the truth.

The estimates you hear about 5G costs are wildly exaggerated. Verizon is building the most advanced wireless network while reducing capex. Deutsche Telekom and Orange/France Telecom also confirm they won't raise capex.

Massive MIMO in either 4G or "5G" can increase capacity 3X to 7X, including putting 2.3 GHz to 4.2 GHz to use. Carrier Aggregation, 256 QAM, and other tools double and triple that. Verizon sees cost/bit dropping 40% per year.

Cisco & others see traffic growth slowing to 30%/year or less.  I infer overcapacity almost everywhere.  

Believe it or not, 80+% of 5G (mid-band) for several years will be slower than good 4G, which is more developed.