Silicon for Chips in Good Supply

Ford is still limiting production because of a chip shortage, but Tim Cook of Apple and Christiano Amon of Qualcomm are both saying the problem is mostly resolved.

Silicon wafer shipments in 2021 increased 14%, about three times the economic growth rate. The chip foundries reported a similar 15% production increase.

The chart at left, from Sravan Kundojjala of Strategy Analytics, shows that China’s SMIC shipments increased 19%, measured by silicon volume. Taiwan’s TSMC shipments increased 14%.

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QQ Adds Unreal: Tencent, Epic want to own the Metaverse

Facebook wants to own the Metaverse, thinking that the Internet will migrate to Meta. Apple & Microsoft are asserting claims. Tencent and the Chinese now are jumping in, bigtime.

Tencent QQ is offering 560 million monthly users Super QQ Show. a 3D social and gaming space. It’s supported by a version of Epic Games Unreal Engine, a primary creation tool for games that also supports a metaverse environment.

The principal author of Unreal, Tim Sweeney, has crafted a graphics engine powerful enough for the latest Matrix film. Indulge yourself for a few minutes. Skip to 2:30 in this video and let ‘er run.

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US Wireless in 1 Chart: About equal

Raymond James

The three US carriers now have more capacity than they can sell for years. Verizon and T-Mobile are now actively selling fixed wireless, something they wouldn’t do unless that had plenty of unused spectrum. Verizon “capacity margin” has been increasing for years, and mid-band will easily double capacity. (Below)

AT&T’s purchase of mid-band spectrum brought it to parity with Verizon. T-Mobile has perhaps 15% more, insignificant when very few cells are ever congested.

This useful chart from Raymond James, courtesy of Mike Dano, shows roughly equal bars. (Larger below) New Street estimates that T-Mobile has more cell sites, 85,000 compared to ~70,000 at the others. US telcos don’t regularly release cell site counts, so these are estimates.

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Need to know Edge: No one is buying so no one is building (except China, Amazon, Google, Microsoft & data centers)

In 2019, I thought Edge would be in the telcos

Verizon, DT, Telefonica and other telcos were excited about building Edge servers for low latency. But none of them are installing many outside of China. (So far). Verizon has postponed indefinitely its planned rollout of a thousand Edge servers. Despite brave talk, its “Edge” is mostly press releases and not low latency.

But once the automakers gave up on controlling cars from outside servers, they couldn’t find customers willing to pay. Connected cars are ubiquitous and now come with 5G. But you don’t need low latency if the auto does the driving.

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Xiaomi is Much More Than Cheap Phones

Loop LiquidCool

Xiaomi is at or close to the top in the smartphone business in India, Russia, and much of Europe. They offer excellent phones at prices much cheaper than Apple & Samsung. They are investing $billions in research and have 14,000 researchers. It’s paying off. The picture at left is Xiaomi’s new Tesla valve, which they claim is a major advance in phone cooling. (Below.)

I also wanted to show this illustration of the extent of Xiaomi’s product ambitions. Besides obvious line extensions like smart watches, Xiaomi is building a factory for 300,000 electric cars. Other products marketing in China and soon elsewhere include refrigerators, light bulbs, AIoT routers, and over 5 million electric scooters.

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Beijing: 47,000 5G Bases, 1 ms Fiber Ring

Beijing, a city of 22 million people, has more 5G cells than the entire United States, with 10 times the population. All are 100 MHz+, either in midband or 700 MHz. Speeds will generally be in the hundreds of megabits and occasionally a gigabit.

5G covers the heart of the city, the area illustrated at left. That’s about 10 million people. There’s also good coverage of the rest of the city and almost all of urban China.

A government report claims the cells are connected by a 1 ms ring. 1 ms almost certainly is not the average speed between 2 locations, which will often require passing through several routers. My source wasn’t explicit about what was measured.

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Capacity margin
Capacity is growing faster than demand at Verizon

“The world will eventually catch on to millimeter wave,” Ted Rappaport notes. But it won’t be soon most places, I believe, because other wireless capacity is growing faster than demand. Massive MIMO, carrier aggregation, and the newly released mid-band spectrum will meet most needs for years. mmWave will find niches but large rollouts will be few until late in the decade.

The US is considering reversing its longstanding opposition to the ITU & the UN having anything to do with the Internet. Some senior officials think that’s the only way to make progress on security. Much opposition; the US goes to the wall fighting any international role in the net. Highest priority is to ensure that the NSA can continue doing what the NSA does so well. Decision not yet made. More tk

5G is now in the majority of new phones across the developed world and China. It still does nothing important and mostly runs at 4G speeds, but the price is now so low 5G is sweeping the market. But my 600M+ August estimate for 2021 sales should probably be revised down. Apple is cutting 2021 phone production because Broadcom & TI can’t deliver enough chips.

$30,000/subscriber as Starry goes public

Starry is a Boston ISP that is claiming a going public value of $1.5 billion on 48,000 subscribers. That’s about 1% of the homes passed. They’ve spent over $200 million.

Its implicit business proposition is that about 1 in 5 cable homes will switch to wireless in the next five years and that a substantial share will choose Starry over T-Mobile, Verizon, and others.

I originally wrote “That’s about as likely as MySpace reclaiming the #1 position in web music.”

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Could this be the end of cable? (God)father Malone: It’s fiber time

John Malone built the largest cableco in America, TCI. After selling that, he built Liberty Global, the largest in the world. He controls Charter, which serves 30 million cable subscribers. Now


Full release belowm but aksi Mike Fries comments

Because it already has conduit in place for cable, Virgin is confident it will be able to upgrade 13 million homes for less than $140/home. Their chart above claims the cost of fiber is little more than the cost to upgrade to DOCSIS 4;

That’s an amazing figure compared to the $400 -1000 others are spending per home, such as Deutsche Telekom.

The $140 figure does not in the drop to the home or the required new modem, which would triple the cost for a home taking fiber. The numbers still look good.

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Dish – $5-10B US build & AT&T resale model?

AT&T has so much overcapacity it gave Dish a great deal on the cost of bandwidth. That allows Charlie to build a minimal network, just meeting his FCC buildout requirement of 70% in all districts.

He can build a lousy network, falling back on AT&T to cover his rear. Very preliminary signs are that’s just what he is doing.

The result: he can easily meet his buildout requirement in his $10B capex estimate. Wall Street speculations he’d have problems raising the money are now superseded. His operating costs will be higher, but they will be related to paying customers.

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250M 5G Subscribers End 2020 150M Q3

230-250 million 5G yearend as phone prices fall to US$199-260.

5G subscriber numbers are exploding. 100-120 million 5G phones will sell in Q4, many of them Apples. Samsung is also selling 5G aggressively in Europe and the U.S. China will add at least 50 million. 70% of the phones selling in China are 5G and likely over 90% by mid-2021.

I’m reworking my 2021 & 2022 estimates, which were already among the highest in the world. Nearly half the phones sold in the US, UK, and Australia are iPhones, most of which will be 5G from now on.

As Chinese phone prices (US$199-260) reach the West, most people will choose to buy 5G. Apple is selling 5G at the same price as 4G. Other companies will bring down the premium and it will make sense for all but the poor to choose 5G.

See 5G Phones $199-260 including screenshots of phones on sale at

“5G still doesn’t have any use cases,” writes top Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett. 5G is of almost no practical use today but most people keep phones for about 3 years.

2020 Q2Q3Q4 est
Rest of world448
Source: Analysis Branch telecom

Analysis Branch and our reporting date back to 1999, when Dave Burstein started covering broadband from its very beginnings. Since then, we’ve had the chance to learn from hundreds of the best industry and academic leaders. Jennie Bourne and Dave have written two books, been quoted by the WSJ, NY Times, & Washington Post, spoken at Columbia University, chaired 8 conferences, and traveled the world looking for news.

Contact Dave Burstein 347-603-6442 (New York) Deadlines understood. Ask for background, short quotes, sources or whatever you need.

5G Need to Know: Sales exploding, performance poor, 0 new apps

147 million subs September 2020, 117 million in China. Yearend likely 230-250 million, including 30-50 million iPhone 12. Decent 5G phones cost US$200-250 in China, with 6.5″ screens and multiple cameras. As China prices move West, 2021 will blow out.

Forget gigabit speeds and 1 ms latency. Mid-band speeds mostly 100-400 Mbps. Low-band typically 50-100 Mbps, the same or less than 4G 50-150 Mbps. Low-band is really 4G + 5G NR software, which adds little. The Emperor Has No Clothes.

Verizon specifies latency of 25-40 ms, including mobile Edge. PCMAG had some tests at 10-15 ms on Verizon, which is what to expect with an Edge Network. Edge will deploy slowly outside of Asia. 4G latency had been 35-60 ms, but it is falling as well.

All major apps run about as well in 4G as in 5G. Telemedicine and IoT are fine in 4G. Tesla and Ford point out autonomous vehicles don’t need 5G or any connection. What would they do out of signal.

One major app coming: surveilling and killing people. US DoD awarded $600M in 5G contracts. Telcos tell me police and surveillance outfits are very interested.

562,656 Koreans go back to 4G

Realme price US$150 for 11/11 sale

5G has so few practical uses that half a million Koreans have gone back to 4G. The saving is modest; otherwise, millions would have gone back. 4G speeds averaged over 50 Mbps in 2019. 4G is probably much faster today.

5G averages 300 Mbps across about a third of the country. So what? What can you think of that runs much better at 300 Mbps than at 50 Mbps? The latency is about the same. YouTube, Facebook, 4K video, and almost everything else is exactly the same on 50 Mbps 4G or 300 Mbps 5G.

Korea expected 15 million 5G users by the end of 2020 but will only reach 10 or 11 million. 800,000 chose 5G in August 2019 as the carriers deeply discounted the phones. The carriers somehow agreed to stop the discounting and sales plummeted.

China’s 5G looks likely to be 170-180 million by yearend. That’s more than the 150 million Chinese target and the typical Western estimates of ~100 million. People refused to believe my Dec 2019 estimate that 2020 would see 210 million worldwide and 150 million in China. It will probably finish higher.

That’s because the price difference between 4G and 5G is collapsing. If the extra cost is modest, it makes sense to go for 5G even if it does nothing useful now. Perhaps that will change in 2 or 3 years.

The difference in the bill of materials cost between 4G & 5G is US$15-35. (mmWave is more.) With eleven phonemakers fighting for market, I expected prices to plummet. They have in China, where more than 60% of the phones sold are 5G and the rate goes up every month.

For the 11/11 big sale, Realme is advertising 5G at US$150. Several other have 6.5″ 5G phones with multiple cameras and other features for US$200-250. The service costs the same. All but the poorest will be buying 5G.

Apple has now brought iPhone 12 5G premium to $0. All models have mmWave wave 5G, the most expensive kind. It costs less than $2 to airfreight a phone from China to Europe and a grey market is already emerging. When the Chinese prices come West, 5G will quickly dominate. My 2021 and later 5G estimates need to be raised.

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844 low latency Starlink satellites: Musk changes rural possibilites

Starlink latency averages 30 ms, similar to 5G’s reality. Speeds measure up to 100 Mbps, although some only get half that. Upstream is usually 10-40 Mbps. Caps haven’t been specified but will almost certainly be higher than current satellite offerings.

By most standards, the performance is decent. A Redditer posts

Starlink is 600x better than my current ISP BEFORE you consider data cap. My jaw dropped when I saw the official numbers. I live in a rural village in Alaska and pay around $200/mo for service that is running fast if it hits 500kbps with a 40GB data cap.
Half the price for up to 300x faster service? Elon please start launching some polar orbits.

Heavy video watchers may need to add satellite broadcast as well, depending on the bandwidth cap. It is definitely a reasonable choice where the cost of fiber or decent wireless is prohibitive. That’s about one million locations in the US.

Beta testers are being charged $500 for the terminal and $99/month. That’s high: Most wireless or wired Internet in the US costs $50-80, including equipment.

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Need to know: Real 5G speeds and spectrum (3 minute read)

Takeaway: 95+% of 5G is lowband (< 1800 MHz or mid-band (2500-4200 MHz.)
Asia, TMobile US, and much of Europe is mid-band.80-200 MHz of spectrum usually delivers 100-400 Mbps.
Low-band (AT&T, much of DT & other European, runs at 4G speeds and sometimes lower. See AT&T data below.
Millimeter wave often does 500 Mbps and a gigabit, but will be rare for years.

Gigabit and 10 gigabit 5G speeds are mostly a fantasy outside the lab. That will be true almost everywhere until 2022-2023, when large-scale millimeter wave deployments begin. Outside of Asia and possibly Verizon, gigabit speeds will be uncommon until late in the decade.


Spectrum and the number of cells/antennas mostly determine speed. Every engineer knows 5G is little faster than 4G. The 80-200 MHz of new mid-band spectrum is where the speeds come from, whether 4G or 5G.

Low: 50-125 Mbps Mid: 100-400 mmWave 500-1500

Need to Know: 5G Spectrum – Think mid-band

Takeway: Decent 5G until around 2025 will be mostly mid-band, 2500-4200 MHz. Frequencies lower than 2100 MHz essentially deliver 4G capacity. Millimeter wave, 20 GHz and above, can deliver gigabits but will be rare until the middle of the decade or later. It’s expensive, and the carriers don’t see much market.

Heretical but true: 5G delivers little more capacity than 4G, in the same spectrum and using the same antennas. T-Mobile US CTO Neville Ray estimates that in ideal circumstances, 5G delivers between 19% and 52% more capacity. “Ideal circumstances” are years away; below 2100 MHz, 5G is slower than decent 4G. 5G in lower frequencies adds nothing to capacity and has few if any practical advantages. It’s great or.

Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle tested AT&T 5G around the city. Most speeds were in the 75-125 Mbps range typical of AT&T’s latest 4G. In the lower right, the single mmWave radio tested over 800 Mbps.

Mid-band, from 2500 MHz to 4200 MHz, is the primary 5G band in use. 5G can efficiently use 100 MHz bands, which usually deliver speeds of 100-450 Mbps and occasionally more. Like 4G, theoretical and lab speeds can go over a gigabit, but that’s misleading.

100 MHz contiguous is the standard 5G band, although not all carriers can achieve that. The lower part of the band has longer reach. The 2500 MHz spectrum of T-Mobile US and China Mobile is golden. (Both actually have 160 MHz, beyond the 5G specifications. Huawei tells me its radios can use all 160 MHz.)

Millimeter wave, from 20 GHz to over 60 GHz, can work with 400 MHz bands and deliver gigabits to many. Initially, it was the only 5G. It is in very limited use until 2022 and later. No carrier needs the capacity before 2022 and many are fine just using mid-band until late in the decade. Because shorter wavelengths have less reach, they cost more to deploy.

The industry, at 3GPP, decided to call anything that ran “5G NR” software “5G.” I don’t think something slower than decent 4G should be called 5G, but that’s become the norm.

Open RAN Experts: Not quite ready for prime time

Open RAN works, but the strongest supporters are clear it has a way to go. CTO Tareq Amin of Rakuten, with the most advanced deployment in the world, had to spend “hundreds of millions” on custom chips to get the performance he needs. My unofficial numbers are custom chip cost wiped out all the initial savings. Rakuten hasn’t turned on 5G yet.

Please don’t misread me as an opponent of Open RAN. It is probably the right choice for a new network today and will play a growing role in the future. But there are problems that must be solved.

Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone Group’s Head of Network Strategy & Architecture and Chairman of Telecom Infra Project (TIP), is one of the most enthusiastic supporters and has four field trials underway. Tenorio says

The big suppliers currently have the TCO upper hand. The traditional vendors have decades of experience, have thousands of employees, and are able to decide what would work better for operators. If you’re going to deploy [OpenRAN] in say, 25 sites, you may get better commercial conditions from incumbents.

There are numerous industry challenges if operators are to reap the promised open RAN benefits of a “richer ecosystem” and lower total cost of ownership (TCO). … We haven’t even scratched the surface of system integration challenges. There are one million different ways in which you can actually build a product that satisfies O-RAN specifications.

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Analysis Branch: 100 million 5G subscribers in August, 84M+ in Q2, prove 5G is real.

210 million 5G yearend as phone prices fall to US$199-260.

New York August 31, 2020
Contact: Dave Burstein, 347-603-6442

  • 5G use is exploding. At the end of June, China had ~67 million 5G phones, Korea 7.35 million, the U.S. 4-5 million, and the rest of the world perhaps 4 million. 5G fixed wireless added perhaps 4 million more.
  • China’s 88M the end of July, combined with my reporting below, implies 5G reached 100M users between July 20 and August 5.
  • Saudi Arabia average 5G download 414 Mbps, 34% coverage leads the world. US, Europe mostly dismal. Open Signal
  • As Chinese phone prices (US$199-260) reach the West and Apple releases the 5G iPhone, monthly growth will reach more than 20 million per month. See 5G Phones $199-260 including screenshots of phones on sale at
  • December 2020 will almost certainly reach 200 million. 210-220 million is more likely.
  • “5G still doesn’t have any use cases,” writes top Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett.

This release is different We show our work so you can judge for yourself the accuracy. This is the full report, with details. See a discussion of sources and accuracy is at the end.

Q2 2020 5G: 84 million subscribers

China ~65 million, based on the number of phones sold reported by CAICT. Perhaps 4 million routers and fixed systems.
Korea 7.35 million, reported by the companies in financial reports
U.S.A. 4-5 million. That figure is based on phone sales reported by M-Science & Strategy Analytics.

Contact Dave Burstein 347-603-6442 (New York) Deadlines understood. Ask for background, short quotes, sources, or whatever you need. Broadband and telecom since 1999

100 million were connected by late July

China added about 14 million more in July. Korea probably 500,000. Japan is picking up, with NTT DOCOMO at 90,000 in July. The big gains in the U.S. will start in September (T-Mobile, now advertising heavily.) When the iPhone 5G ships in October or November, Verizon and the Europeans expect strong demand.

Yearend 2020: 210 million 5G users

The 210 million estimate and 65 pages more of analysis is at I’ll have an updated version shortly and a followup release.

By the end of 2020, we expect 210 million 5G subscribers. With 30 million phones sold in China in June and July. China is on track to easily meet the 150 million plan for the year. The U.S. will also accelerate. T-Mobile is upgrading about 3,000 towers per month to 100-400 Mbps and has begun aggressive sales.

Decent 5G phones are shipping in Europe for 400€. Huawei, Xiaomi, Realme, Oppo, and Vivo are offering decent, 6.5″ 5G phones in China for US$199 to $260. See 5G Phones $199-260 and Coolpad $199 5G phone with Unisoc Ziguang Zhanrui Chinese chip

When those prices reach the West, many Android buyers will choose 5G because the price difference is modest. When the 5G iPhone ships in volume, the Europeans and Verizon expect very high sales. (Possibly in October.)

5G in 2020 is mostly 100-400 Mbps, not the promised gigabits

The low prices will drive 5G sales in 2020, not any new 5G applications. There aren’t any that inspire people.

The performance hype is ridiculous. Open Signal reports latency is similar to 4G. Verizon claims 30 ms. 1 ms latency is a fantasy outside the lab. Low-band speeds are often slower than 4G, especially at lower frequencies. See Finally, Data: US 5G slower than Canada’s 4G. Believe it

Analysis Branch figures are higher than almost all subscriber estimates in the West

In December 2019, I put out a 210 million estimate for the end of 2020. Xiaomi dropped the 5G price to US$285, a demand driver. China officially set a plan for 150 million, which was forcefully echoed by the three telcos. Although most estimates for 2020 were ~ 1oo million, my research suggested the Chinese would deliver.

Chinese telcos, among the largest in the world, have consistently made their numbers for the last decade. 300 million were connected to fiber to the home in about four years. Minister Miao Wei last spring said, “Accelerate!” The carriers have delivered.

Company leaders no longer go to jail for missing quotas, but MIIT can and often has fired any executives who come up short. The $100 billion (sales) $14 billion (profits) China Mobile could increase marketing and phone subsidies enough to reach 150 million. It’s on track already.

5G is selling far above almost all predictions except mine because the phone price in China is little more than 4G. Decent phones go for US$199-260 in China, with prices falling there and everywhere else. Tens of millions of people have decided to pay the small premium for a phone that won’t be obsolete as soon. I would.

About the data

I have only indirect data on most of the world. If you want to be accurate, please think of the range of 83 million to 92 million rather than the 84 million headline figure.

I’m including a figure of 4 million 5G routers and pucks. Unfortunately, I can find no primary data. The 4 million is a guess. I have not tried to divide them by country. Data extremely welcome.

An analyst firm put out a 63 million figure for Q1, almost certainly a mistake but frequently repeated. The highest plausible estimate of 5G phone sales in 2019 and the first quarter of 2020 is 45 million and it is probably a lower than that. (Strategy Analytics reports 24 million for Q1 2020)

I’ve urged them to put out a correction and am not naming them here.

“I make many mistakes,” the Butler said. I’m sure I have some, although I’ve done a great deal of research, I’ll issue a correction ASAP.

Country details:

China: ~65 million.
China’s telcos are reporting ~115 million “5G contracts” but an authoritative government source (CAICT) reports only 64 million 5G phones shipped. Since 4G and 5G contracts are the same price, I assume the telcos are persuading many 4G customers to sign up for a “5G contract.” China doesn’t need to overstate the numbers; even the lower figure is three times as many as the rest of the world.
Over 410,000 base stations have been upgraded and 15,000 more are being done each week. China Mobile expects a total of 600,000 5G cells yearend, covering about 700,000,000 people. All is mid-band.
17 million 5G phones shipped in June, many selling for US$230-260. 30-gigabyte service costs $13-18/month. China is on track to easily meet the 150 million year-end target. Counterpoint reports 60% of 5G phones in June were Huawei, which has shipped over 20 million 5G phones in China and probably over 30 million worldwide.
Unofficial sources claim July is far ahead of June.

Korea: ~7.35 million
All are mid-band, mostly 100-400 Mbps down. Open Signal data implies the indoor coverage is terrible. See 5G #fail. 85% no 5G in “90% covered” Korea

U.S.A. 4-5million.
US 5G coverage is awful, so I was surprised when Strategy Analytics reported Samsung sold over 3 million expensive 5G phones in Q1. Most probably were sold by Verizon, despite Verizon customers only connecting to 5G 0.4% of the time. I infer that high-end Samsung buyers are spending more for a phone that will not be obsolete in a year or 2. CEO Hans Vestberg has said people are buying 5G phones even where Verizon does not have 5G coverage.
So far, almost all AT&T & T-Mobile has been the ridiculous “low-band 5G,” actually slower than much 4G. See Finally, Data: US 5G slower than Canada’s 4G. Believe it The companies are making it nearly impossible to separate the 5G at 4G speeds” from other 5G. I will exclude them if I can. Any reporter or analyst who doesn’t try to make the distinction should point out that much “5G” is slower than much “4G.”

Europe ?2 million
No European carrier has enough 5G customers to release a figure. I infer from that and the limited availability that there are few actual subscribers. More data welcome.

Gulf ? 1 million
The UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have some of the most extensive deployments of 5G. There is little or no public data on the number of subscribers. Ooredoo Qatar reports 200,000 subscriptions Q2.

Japan ? 0.3 million
3 carriers are deploying. NTT DOCOMO reports 150,000 subscription Q2 and 90,000 more in July. It is shooting for 2.5 million early next year.
Rakuten, the first telco in the world to build a completely virtual system, is not yet ready to turn on 5G. When it does, expect major changes. It has already covered a quarter of the population and expects to reach 70% early next year. See Rakuten virtualized 4G now covers quarter of Japan. It is half as expensive as NTT and will be a fierce competitor. 2021 totals for Japan look to be 10-12 million.

South and Southeast Asia ?0.3 million
Viettel and almost all the Southeast Asian countries are just starting to deploy. Jio in India is ready to move rapidly when the government approves. Look for very rapid growth in India in 2022 and possibly earlier. The projections of 18 million in 2024 are far too low.

Australia ?0.2 million
Lots of pr, little data

Latin America ?0.1 million
Almost all talk so far.

Africa ? 0.1 million
MTN in South Africa has recently deployed mid-band, but few subscribers so far.

Canada ? 0.1 million
Just getting started

Russia, most of Latin America, and almost all of Africa have little more than pr.

Total: About 80 million phones Q2 and perhaps 4 million fixed home systems.

Sources and accuracy

China’s government CAICT is the source for the phone sales figure. It reports phones shipped so I have to adjust for units in transit and dealer inventory. The Chinese carriers are reporting about 115 million “5G contracts” but only about 70 million 5G phones have shipped in China.

Korea’s 3 telcos provided figures in their quarterly financials.

The U.S. estimate is based on Strategy Analytics estimate of 5G phone sales plus a small number from 2019. M Science reports about 1 million fewer sales. The companies say nothing.

Few other companies have reported subscriber numbers, from which I infer they have very few. The 4 million figure for Rest of World is highly uncertain.

I have found no figures for the number of homes connected by 5G routers. My 4 million estimate is also highly uncertain.

The most widely reported figures — not ours — for Q1 almost certainly are 40-50% too high.

For estimates of year-end 2020 and through 2025,

Analysis Branch and our reporting date back to 1999, when Dave Burstein started covering broadband from its very beginnings. Since then, we’ve had the chance to learn from hundreds of the best industry and academic leaders. Jennie Bourne and Dave have written two books, been quoted by the WSJ, NY Times, & Washington Post, spoken at Columbia University, chaired 8 conferences, and traveled the world looking for news.

Contact Dave Burstein 347-603-6442 (New York) Deadlines understood. Ask for background, short quotes, sources or whatever you need.

$Hundreds of millions in extra chip costs prove Open-RAN not quite ready

Tareq Amin’s Rakuten is the most advanced Open-RAN and virtual carrier on earth. But he wasn’t able to get there using standard parts and equipment.

Rakuten pays hundreds of millions of dollars in non-recurring engineering fees to chipmakers like Qualcomm to obtain the components it needs. …We cannot find the right material at the right cost, the right architecture, to address the future requirements for 5G radios

Tareq Amin Rakuten to John Hendel of Politico

That’s an enormous sum, enough to design state-of-the-art chips. I would guess the extra cost ate up all the expected cost savings from the initial deployment. (Below) Important: Please don’t infer from this that Open-RAN is a failure, especially for new networks. Most of these problems will be solved. Meanwhile, don’t believe the hype.

Alex Choi of Deutsche Telekom is enthusiastic about Open RAN and the other buzzwords as near-future technologies, still with challenges. That’s the near-universal consensus of the top network engineers. That doesn’t mean the new networks shouldn’t pioneer, but I’ve been seeing some unfortunate datapoints:

  • Vodafone CTO Scott Petty has been one of the most enthusiastic supporters and is doing some deployments. But Laurie Clarke of New Scientist quotes Petty, “We believe by 2023, we may be able to deploy some scale in the rural parts of our network, but it will take until 2025 to be able to deploy at real scale in our denser urban and suburban areas.”
  • AT&T was the first strong backer of SDN/NFV/Ecomp, pouring a fortune into open software. It is quietly cutting back. A friend has been receiving resumes from senior people at AT&T, expecting layoffs.

Contrary to general belief, the initial saving from open and virtual RAN is modest. The hardware is cheaper, but hardware is only a small part of the network cost. For large carriers with bargaining power and good negotiators, the price of the hardware is already low.

China Mobile & China Telecom are paying US$23,000 per cell. The antenna, power supply, and a high-performing processing unit will still be required. How much could they really save if they bought radios from Mavenir or Jio/Radisys?

Smaller telcos, like AT&T or Telefonica, order closer to 10,000 cells. Nokia & Ericsson are masters at extracting maximum revenue from customers but if pressed will give great prices on the initial purchases.

Over time, the more flexible systems should be much cheaper to upgrade. Moore’s Law may be slowing, but the systems in five years will be far more capable than today. If open systems deliver on their promises, the upgrade should be cheap and easy. (That’s still unproven.)

Carl Russo at Calix has produced some of the best SDN systems, Verizon tells me. He tells me carriers who just look for initial savings will not reap the full benefit of SDN. Only those who use the flexibility and integrate better management, especially of customer offerings, receive a full return.

Nearly all telcos upgrading and densifying existing systems will likely follow a similar timeline as Vodafone, limiting new systems for several years. New builds are almost all choosing Open.

All of this is speculation until we have good data from the field, of course.