Not every mobile market “needs” lots of additional internet access capacity now, and will need it in the next two years. The U.S. market is among the places where more capacity is an immediate issue, and the issue is whether 5G in new spectrum, spectrum refarming, smaller cells, spectrum sharing, spectrum aggregation, broader advanced 4G deployments or all the above are required.
“4G networks in the U.S. are becoming heavily loaded,” says Opensignal. So “consumers and operators alike will need 5G to relieve pressure on existing networks, otherwise the overall mobile network experience will worsen. In other words, faster speeds made possible by 5G are important, but perhaps the equally-important value is capacity reinforcement.
A shift to unlimited usage plans by all four national U.S. mobile service providers also has driven capacity demand.
“Today, 4G networks are very inconsistent in terms of speed with average connections at the busiest time of day often being half that of speeds during the quietest times of day,” Opensignal says, citing its 5G Opportunity report.
In the U.S. market, average 4G download speeds varied between 15.3 Mbps to 28.8 Mbps, depending on the time of day and congestion levels on a network.
The variation in speeds throughout the course of the day are even more pronounced in the largest cities. In Miami, average 4G download speeds were as low as 17 Mbps and as high as 43.2 Mbps over a 24-hour period. Baltimore, Chicago and New York City variations of 20 Mbps or more occurred between fastest and slowest hours.
“5G will not only provide extremely fast speeds but also a solid bedrock of capacity, to even out the consistency issues we are seeing with current 4G networks,” says Opensignal.
In other words, in some markets, 5G is a major tool for supplying the increasing demand for mobile data, which in the U.S. mobile market is growing 46 percent annually, according to Cisco.
The point is that 5G is needed, in the U.S. market, especially by AT&T and Verizon, the two networks with the most customers and therefore capacity demand to support.