American Tower expects the deployment of 5G in the U.S. will have different approaches considering specific topographic and population characteristics, the company’s President and CEO James Taiclet said during a conference call with investors.
“In our view, 5G will likely have a number of layers since any given geographic area will have specific topographic and population characteristics,” he said. “In rural locations, low-band spectrum and perhaps some mid-band, will likely be the main components. In suburban areas and high-wave corridors, where there are more people and more usage, we believe that mid-band spectrum is likely to be an important component of 5G with low-band coverage also broadly deployed,” he added.
“In dense urban areas, all three types of spectrum including high band millimeter wave are likely to be deployed through a combination of rooftop antennas, indoor and outdoor systems, and other small cell solutions,” Taiclet said.
He also highlighted that the net result of these deployments is likely to be an even more complex Radio Access Network architecture, requiring more density, considerably more compute power, and more intelligent design to deliver a consistent user experience.
“These deployments are likely to take a significant amount of time. Past technologies have lasted at least 15 to 20 years from inception to sunset. Given the scope and intricacies involved with 5G, we would expect a similar timeline,” Taiclet said.
The executive also said that ATC expects 4G technology will continue to serve the vast majority of mobile usage across the U.S.
“Currently, industry estimates suggested 4G will still represent more than 50% of the embedded U.S. device market share even through the year 2025. Consequently, investments by our tenants in augmenting their existing LTE networks are expected to continue well into the 2020s with incremental 5G related spending progressively being added to the mix,” he said.
Taiclet also considered that the deployment of new spectrum bands for 5G technology will be tailored to both coverage and capacity: “As nationwide coverage is achieved we expect that 5G will pave the way towards a variety of interesting next-generation products and services that may offer profitable opportunities, not just for mobile operators, but also across a variety of industries.”
“We expect 5G to be accompanied by significant deployments of new spectrum assets across the full range of low, mid, and high bands,” he said. “We have already seen 600 megahertz low band spectrum selectively deployed on our towers. T-Mobile has stated publicly that they expect 600 megahertz to serve as a significant component of their 5G coverage plan across the country, and our portfolio of 41,000 U.S. sites is positioned very well to support that deployment,” the executive added.
“What may be even more impactful for us over time is the widespread rollout of mid band spectrum. These bands generate between 2.5 GHz and 6 GHz offered intriguing blend of low band coverage benefits and high band capacity benefits. Both of these are expected to be critical attributes of 5G networks. Spectrum assets in this range includes Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum, the 3.5 GHz CBRS band, and the C-band spectrum currently held by satellite operators between 3.7 GHz and 4.2 GHz. Importantly, given that propagation characteristics of this spectrum aren’t as favorable as low band, we expect that more transmission sites will be necessary to deliver an ubiquitous 5G level signal,” he said.
The executive noted that this should lead to incremental amendments in collocations across American Tower’s nationwide portfolio.
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