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. 

Newsletter

Often interesting

Latest issue

 Gig LTE & Massive MIMO ushering in the Age of Wireless Abundance

Wireless Abundance is here: What the new tech means http://bit.ly/Wirelessabundance
Sprint & T-Mobile Charge to be 1st in U.S. to Gig LTE bit.ly/STMOgig  AT&T bit.ly/ATTGIG2016
Kitahara of Softbank “I am crazy about Massive MIMO” http://bit.ly/MMIMOCrazy
20 Gig mmWave, Massive MIMO & Gig LTE at the Huawei MBBF http://bit.ly/Huawei20
LTE gets to the gigabit explained for non-engineers http://bit.ly/GigLteexplained
Massive MIMO explained. http://bit.ly/WHMassiveMIMO
2017's Big Gigabit story: Qualcomm 835 is ready http://bit.ly/BigGigLTE
Doubling speed with 4x4 MIMO & 256 QAM at T-Mobile http://bit.ly/2k1gEOQ
Netgear Nighthawk M1, Telstra do "gigabit class" LTE http://bit.ly/2k1s5Gq
Spectrum price down by half http://bit.ly/Spectrumhalfoff
Dish and the telcos see big asset cut http://bit.ly/auctionlosers
Shorts on 3GPP,  NYU research, Ralph de la Vega, 5G new radio

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5GW News

dave right5G? 4G? Whatever the name, wireless is going to a gigabit, soon.  I've reported broadband since 1999 and now is the time for gigabit wireless. Catch a mistake or have news? Email me please. Dave Burstein

 

Stories worth writing

Starry may match Verizon 5G at half the cost
OFCOM in UK: Share all spectrum, even licensed
OFCOM's Boccardi: 26 GHz worldwide: U.S. goes 28 
Verizon 5G fixed tests will be only 100's of homes
Massive MIMO FD at China Uni, Tele, Huawei, ZTE

 

 

 

Datapoints

Verizon and AT&T burying price increases in fees. 

Huawei's Richard Yu intends to pass both Apple & Samsung in smartphones in five years. 

The 3,000,000,000 transistor Qualcomm 835 is a revolution. Gig LTE, incredible cameras, better VR & AR, & ... State of the art CPU, DSL, GPU, ISP tightly integrated

1,000 T-Mobile small cells 2016, 6,000 more coming. Tech Life

New $84 Reliance Lyf Wind 7S has a 5" screen, a quad-core Snapdragon, an 8 megapixel camera, and some extras. Not state of the art, perhaps, but completely usable at a modest price. 

Orange/FT 4G covers 97% of Poland, 96% of Moldova, but only 84% in France, Q3 2016. They have 113.5 mobile customers in Africa compared to 25.5M in Europe.

more

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