Crown Castle offered a positive outlook on the U.S. tower industry, with CEO Ben Moreland predicting that "over the next several years, we believe that the current level of investment by U.S. wireless carriers will be sustained." He added that Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US have been the most active carriers in 2015 in spending on their networks, but he said AT&T and Sprint are expected to increase their own spending this year as well.
Verizon Wireless is currently deploying 4x4 MIMO (multiple input and multiple output) technology, involving 4 transmitters and 4 receivers, which the carrier said should enhance both its coverage and improve its LTE network performance. Mike Haberman, Verizon's VP of network support, also said the operator is actively deploying carrier aggregation technology in its 20x20 MHz spectrum channels and expects the effort will allow it to offer spectrum channels wider than a 20x20 MHz configuration in the future, which Haberman said would allow Verizon to offer faster peak wireless download speeds in the future.
Sprint has not yet announced its final plans for its "Next Generation Network" (NGN) network densification, but elements of it are starting to take shape. According to financial analysts who follow the carrier, the NGN program will include around 70,000 small cells, some unknown number of additional macro cell sites and will likely involve wireless backhaul technology using the 2.5 GHz band.
It seems regulators and governments prefer impressive-looking obligation targets that are actually rather easy to achieve, while taking as much money as they possibly can out of the mobile sector in spectrum fees. Instead, it would be better to find ways of keeping more money in the sector by reducing auction transfers so that investments in infrastructure and service quality on a more widespread basis can be increased.
Verizon Wireless is not desperate for low-band spectrum and does not necessarily need to secure a trove of airwaves in next year's incentive auction of 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum, according to Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo. The company may participate in the auction, but in the meantime, it is focused on densifying its network through small cells and refarming some of its 1900 MHz PCS spectrum.
Sprint has said it plans to massively densify its network via its "Next Generation Network" (NGN) plan and has received approval from parent SoftBank to proceed on the plan. Yet without any visible movement on the plan in the last few weeks, analysts are questioning whether its momentum has stalled.
Sprint's network spending is slowing down in advance of its announcement of a major new network densification project, but will ramp up later this year and into 2016 and beyond, according to a research note from analysts at investment bank Jefferies.
Super-low latency is expected to be one of the cornerstones of 5G, and SK Telecom and Ericsson are paving the way with a successful demonstration of small cell technology with super-low latency.
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure met on Monday with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and discussed Sprint's plans to expand and enhance its network in the Miami area in what could be the first hints at the elements of Sprint's massive network densification project.
While a lot of discussions are underway about 5G and what exactly it will entail, one thing is widely expected: It will involve ever-smaller cells, one very good reason for the Small Cell Forum to get involved in the early discussions about 5G.