$23,000 for 5G Base Stations, $56,000/cell Complete. Quantity 200,000

China Mobile is upgrading over 250,000 cells to 2.5 GHz, 100+ Mbps 5G in 2020. It projects a total capex expenditure for 5G of ~US$14 billion. That’s about US$56,000 per upgraded site. It will reach between 500 million and 700 million Chinese, about half the country. China Telecom and China Unicom are doing a slightly smaller cooperative build at a similar cost.

It is also buying 230,000 base stations for ~US$23,000. Huawei won 55% of the order, ZTE ~30%, Ericsson ~10%, and Datang 5%. Nokia Shanghai Bell was shut out.

Telco cost figures cannot be closely compared. Every contract is different, with different amounts of training, installation, spare parts, and other factors. Cost accounting is never an exact science. What % of a fiber upgrade that serves fiber to the home, 4G, and 5G should be attributed to 5G?

These figures correspond to what I’ve inferred from ZTE’s corporate presentations and from Stephen Pongratz of Dell’oro, an analyst I respect. But they are much lower than prices in the U.S. and I believe in Europe. Small carriers pay even more.

Ajit Pai at the FCC should call Ericsson & Nokia are request a comparison between their prices for similar equipment in the U.S. and China. There should be some difference because U.S. carriers buy 10’s of thousands, not 100’s of thousand. But the U.S. should not allow vendors to take advantage of the U.S. blockade of Huawei and ZTE.

Pai’s next calls should be to the CEO’s of T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T and ask them to immediately install 5G/4G Massive MIMO systems where they have towers. VTEL did just that in two weeks and now is delivering 100 Mbps to about 80% of Rutland Vermont.

~8 million American homes do not have access to good wired coverage. Most could have 100 Mbps remarkably soon with today’s wireless equipment.

CNBeta has an excellent article with these figures.


  1. […] 5G networks are not expensive to build by telco standards.1 They often cost less in total than 4G and cost much less per bit. NTT, Verizon, AT&T, and Orange are building 5G nets and cutting capex. Countries like Germany and Italy could very rapidly reach 70% or better coverage by pulling up 1-2% of sales for added capex. April: I now have data. See $23,000 for 5G Base Stations, $56,000/cell Complete. Quantity 200,000 […]

  2. […] on untrue assumptions except for mmWave, less than 5% of 5G deployments. April: I now have data. $23,000 for 5G Base Stations, $56,000/cell Complete. Quantity 200,000 Prices go up rapidly in smaller […]


Talk to me

Scroll to top