Chengliang Zhang's keynote at OFC revealed that China Telecom will build ~2M base stations (doubling) for a national network at 3.5 GHz. Most will be built between 2020 and 2025. A bigger telecom story is hard to imagine, but only the great Ray Le Maistre caught it. Thank you Ray.
Currently, CT uses 1.16M 4G cells for China's population of 1.379B, or about 1,200 people per cell today. In 2015, CT was at about 1,700 people per cell. That was about equal to Spain and Korea and three times fewer than AT&T or Verizon. (Chart)
("5G" at 3.5 GHz, of course, has performance like LTE, not 5G millimeter wave. It's 70-90% slower than mmWave, the original 5G. Latency isn't even close to the highly touted 1 ms. Many of us used to call 3.5 Fake 5G, but 3GPP has now accepted it.)
Much of Chengliang's talk was about the new optical backbone they are building for capacity and speed. They are using 25G Ethernet for the edge rather than the NG-PON2 at Verizon. everything will be optical, fast, and almost failsafe.
His goal is to have 90% of China within 30 ms of a CT server. China does not impose Net Neutrality and the system is designed to place almost everything on local servers controlled by the telco. This is the wet dream of most telcos around the world but so far never achieved.
The telco NGMN CTO's have a 20 year roadmap with the same goal: Everything through the telcos.