At present, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon have all achieved or exceeded their initial coverage targets for 5G networks, and it is currently unclear whether they will set new public or expansion targets.
Verizon Network Director Joe Russo recently stated that the operator will exceed its 2024 target in the coming quarters, which is to cover 250 million people with high-speed intermediate frequency 5G. Afterwards, the company will focus on customer needs.
But Russo did not provide any clear construction goals beyond the 250 million coverage area, indicating that the days of tracking mid frequency 5G network expansion through serving new markets or covering customers are basically over. On the contrary, network operators may shift towards networks that involve new technologies or features, rather than the original coverage.
For example, T-Mobile recently boasted about successfully deploying a six carrier aggregation connection that supports speeds of 3.6Gbit/s. The company stated at the end of last year that its medium frequency 5G network now covers 300 million people.
T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert stated that the company’s 5G deployment is “far from complete”, but he added that the company’s outlook for the next few years is to improve capital efficiency. Sievert did not provide any further construction goals. This means that he may believe that the task has been largely completed.
Jennifer Fritzche, Managing Director of Greenhill&Company, an investment bank, recently wrote, “5G: Where have you been? With operators reducing capital expenditures and focusing on free cash flow, the number of times 5G was mentioned in almost every operator’s earnings conference call last year has sharply decreased.”
Although urban areas have basically covered 5G in the past two years, operators may continue to expand their mid frequency 5G networks to more rural areas. In fact, according to executives at tower giant American Tower, only 50% of the company’s base stations have been upgraded to 5G. But upgrading the remaining sites may be much slower.