Viettel 4GMYTEL, the new fourth company, has promised 4G to 95% within three years, investing well over $1B. They will launch their 4G-only network with 7K base stations across most of the country early in 2018. Adjusted for population, they begin with about 80% of the cell sites of Verizon or AT&T and rapidly surpass the U.S. giants.

90% to 95% LTE coverage is rapidly becoming common across the developing world. Reliance Jio is soon at 95% as well. On the other hand, while South Africa claims 99% 3G coverage, ICASA estimates only 75% 4G. Today's 4G is three to eight times as efficient as 3G and hence much cheaper per bit. Almost all networks are rapidly upgrading.  

The wireless explosion in Myanmar is almost miraculous. Six years ago, fewer than 1% had mobile phones. Today, Bloomberg estimates 90% are connected.

90% connected sounds a little high to me, as does MPT's estimate they reach 98% of the country.

Viettel will own 49% of MYTEL. The remaining 51% will be split between MEC and local companies. MEC is controlled by the Myanmar military and. Viettel by the Vietnamese government. To reach the less served, governments are increasingly jumping in. All of Rome will get fiber home courtesy of the government power and water company. India is running fiber to an amazing 250,000 villages, of which about 30,000 are starting to connect endusers.

The three current carriers - Norway's Telenor, Ooredoo of Qatar, and Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT) - have nearly saturated urban middle-class market, so MYTEL from day one will target rural areas and lower prices. That explains why they want to expand even to extreme rural areas.


 That the Myanmar military is bringing the Internet to so many is admirable. Don't forget, however, "the Myanmar military began torching entire villages with helicopters and petrol bombs, aided by Buddhist vigilantes from the ethnic Rakhine group, those fleeing the violence said.

Person after person along the trail into Bangladesh told of how the security forces cordoned off Rohingya villages as the fire rained down, and then shot and stabbed civilians. Children were not exempt." New York Times


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.