Dave 20GBPSTelcos report costs going down 40% to 60%. That allows T-Mobile U.S. & Sprint to offer "unlimited" with only a few gotchas. Competition and regulation will determine who is actually served. 

Technology on the market can deliver 10X to 25X at reasonable cost; Weak competition or weak regulation could hold this back. Speeds over 50 megabits with a cap high enough to watch 100 hours/month of HD TV can be delivered in most of the developed world. The engineers can deliver. Marconi Fellow Paulraj tells me Massive MIMO will bring many of the same benefits to most rural areas, including in emerging nations. Extreme rural areas - the last 1-3% - may not be as fortunate.

Giga LTE offers about a gigabit to the cell site. Beginning this year, phones with a good connection will get 100-300 megabits down. Phones on the cell edge and behind walls are seeing a 4X improvement as well. Gig LTE combines more antennas (4x4 MIMO,) more spectrum (60-80 MHz,) and more bits squeezed in (256 QAM.) Gig LTE is five or six times as much as LTE started at and about three times the capacity of most advanced systems in 2016. The meter in the picture showing about one gig at Huawei's BBF in Tokyo Nov 2016 is Gig LTE. Two gig has been demonstrated by British Telecom. Explained for non-engineers here.

Massive MIMO, using as many as 128 antennas, by September 2016 was deployed at 100 cells of Softbank Japan

and by China Mobile. Both told me at the Huawei BBW in Tokyo the results were excellent, and they are moving on thousands. There are many refinements to come.  3X-10X

Half a dozen other technologies are starting to have an impact. For example, Telus CTO Ibrahim Gedeon thinks SON & HetNets make his small cell deployments much more efficient. He tells me S&H may make more difference in the next few years than the more publicized advances. There are plenty of claims of the size of coming improvements but no solid data from the field. The effect will not be small.  

Most of these tools work together, so multiply the impact of each to get a total. Several are deploying in volume in 2017, but upgrading large telco networks takes time. We don't yet know how to get maximum results or integrate the different pieces. The results are already dramatic. Verizon's David Small estimates his costs are going down 40% per year. I have data from Telefonica that implies a 60% improvement last year. 

Most believe it will be four to seven years before we see a large effect in mobile from 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) high frequency. Leading researcher Ted Rappaport expects results sooner. The 20 gigabits at the Huawei demo is exciting, but almost everyone thinks large deployments on mobile will wait until next decade. Giant China Mobile is among the most advanced but only expects 1% of its network upgraded in 2020. Verizon plans to test mmWave fixed to several hundred homes in 2017. mmWave to phones is two to four years away. The advanced technologies I'm discussing here have a bill of materials cost similar to what costs were in 2011. The vendors out with the newest technology hope to get a premium. It may take 2-4 years for the right price to emerge. 

 
 
I define "reasonable cost" as fitting into today's capital spending. I don't yet understand how this will play out in extreme rural areas, where fewer than 50 homes are within reach of backhaul. 
 

dave askOn Oct 1, Verizon will turn on the first $20B 5G mmWave network, soon offering a gigabit or close to 30M homes. The estimates you hear about 5G costs are wildly exaggerated. Verizon is building the most advanced wireless network while keeping capex at around 15%.

The Koreans, Chinese, and almost all Europeans are not doing mmWave in favor of mid-band "5G," with 4G-like performance. Massive MIMO in either 4G or "5G" can increase capacity 4X to 10X, including putting 2.3 GHz to 4.2 GHz to use. Cisco & others see traffic growth slowing to 30%/year or less. Verizon sees cost/bit dropping 40% per year. I infer overcapacity almost everywhere.  

The predicted massive small cell builds are a pipe dream for vendors for at least five years. Verizon expects to reach a quarter of the U.S. without adding additional small cells. 

In the works: Enrique Blanco and Telefonica's possible mmWave disruption of Germany; Believe it or don't: 5G is cheap because 65% of most cities can be covered by upgrading existing cells; Verizon is ripping out and replacing 200,000 pieces of gear expecting to save half. 

-------------------

 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.