"We see traffic doubling every 12 months but we don't have quality problems in the network." Urs Schaeppi, CEO Swisscom, on the investor call. "Do we run into congestion problems? No, we will be able to manage it." Swisscom's business model is to offer outstanding service at a premium price, which they have generally done well. Schaeppi closely watches the quality of his wireless network.
At Vodafone, CEO Colao reports "60% of growth in data [but] our network utilization went up only one percentage point." He adds technology is driving down cost per gig by, "40% year-over-year." David Small of Verizon also estimates cost drops of ~40% per year. Depending on who is estimating, the move from 3G to 4G LTE reduced costs from 50%-90%. We're seeing a similar fall as telcos go from LTE to LTE Advanced.
Capital spending has generally been going down and often is actually below depreciation. Most wireless companies have no net investment. Telcos are now bonding two or three 20 MHz bands, for a corresponding capacity increase; four bands are now possible. The upgrade for "carrier aggregation" is mostly software in recent generation cell sites. The next step, going to two and four antennas (2x2 & 4x4 MIMO,) requires only a modest hardware upgrade.
Around the world, wireless speeds have been going up dramatically since Jim Cicconi, AT&T's great lobbyist, insisted decade ago we faced a "spectrum crisis."
AT&T in 2016 still has 40 MHz of essentially unused spectrum. Genachowski at the FCC embraced the fear mongering, despite strong protests from his own engineers. In 2009 & 2010, I was convinced the "Spectrum Crisis" was bogus. Glen Campbell of Merrill Lynch, as well as Stagg Newman and Scott Wallsten of the Broadband Plan, presented the data that convinced me.
The 1 gigabit LTE starting to deploy in Hong Kong, Korea, and Australia is another 300%-400% capacity increase before we even get to "5G."