Now that nearly everyone in the developed world has smartphones, data growth is falling dramatically. The trend has been down for several years. Cisco sees growth in Asia-Pacific falling to 37% and Latin America to 34% by 2022. Folks who make business decisions on the assumption of high growth will be disappointed.

Since the technology is improving at something like 40% per year, that means either excess capacity or capex cuts. Verizon is building the most advanced wireless network in the world and cut capital spending in 2018. Deutsche Telekom, NTT DOCOMO, and Orange/FT have all told investors that capex will be flat to down as they build 5G networks.

The developing world continues remarkable growth, especially in India. Cisco's estimate for Middle East and Africa is 48% for 2022. As smartphones approach saturation, growth will slow. 

The only thing visible that could bring traffic growth back up is fixed wireless like Verizon. That would bring with it additional revenues that would more than cover the cost of any needed network upgrades. AR/VR/SR could take off, but I expect it will ramp at a reasonable rate.

Mobile growth percentage peaked first as people bought smartphones. There was a lesser peak as Netflix became more popular and speeds went up for video. 

Nokia's North American CTO Mike Murphy sees growth going up to 50% and remaining at that level. That disagrees with Cisco, CTIA, & AT&T. His article Tick-Tock, or Why 5G Must Happen Soon in the US, assumes 50% growth. He also implies that AT&T and Verizon lied when they told Wall Street 50% of their spectrum was unused in 2017.

More surprising, Mike asserts that SON and other techniques to minimize interference between cells doesn't work very well or at all. "Densification unfortunately can result in unwanted interference if applied more so than has already been done in the same frequencies, and so we expect its use to be limited."

Nokia salesman are telling customers their system does a good job of mitigating interference. Those customers are planning tens of thousands of small cells, Telus CTO Ibrahim Gedeon tells me most of the small cell problems had been solved and he was building them aggressively.  I believe Huawei is supplying Telus but I doubt Nokia is so far behind. Nokia Shanghai Bell is supplying hundreds of thousands of radios to Chinese carriers, where the population and network density is much higher.

Perhaps a marketing person who didn't know the above wrote the Light Reading article that went out over Mike's name and no network person checked it. 

(I sent the key points above to Nokia to fact check and haven't received any data to the contrary.)


dave askOn Oct 1, Verizon turned on the first $20B 5G mmWave network. It will soon offer a gigabit or close to 30M homes. Thousands of sites are live in Korea; AT&T is going live with mobile, even lacking phones. 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 4X 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.


5G Why Verizon thinks differently and what to do about it is a new report I wrote for STL Partners and their clients.

STL Partners, a British consulting outfit I respect, commissioned me to ask why. That report is now out. If you're a client, download it here. If not, and corporate priced research is interesting to you, ask me to introduce you to one of the principals.

It was fascinating work because the answers aren't obvious. Lowell McAdam's company is spending $20B to cover 30M+ homes in the first stage. The progress in low & mid-band, both "4G" and "5G," has been remarkable. In most territories, millimeter wave will not be necessary to meet expected demand.

McAdam sees a little further. mmWave has 3-4X the capacity of low and mid-band. He sees an enormous marketing advantage: unlimited services, even less congestion, reputation as the best network. Verizon testing found mmWave rate/reach was twice what had been estimated. All prior cost estimates need revision.

My take: even if mmWave doesn't fit in your current budget, telcos should expand trials and training to be ready as things change. The new cost estimates may be low enough to change your mind.