DNA Finland: Range of 3.5 GHz Massive MIMO = 1.8 GHz Traditional
Adding more antennas makes adding cells unnecessary. I don't have cost details, but the innovative Finnish telco, DNA, suggestion of using Massive MIMO in the 3.5 GHz spectrum could be very interesting.
Pal Zarandy, of the extremely informative site rewheel.fi, writes "DNA, one of the Finnish operators publicly shared their plans about using 3.5GHz with 5G massive MIMO, deployed on the existing 1800MHz macro site grid (i.e. no site densification needed, no Capex hikes), to push home broadband primarily in the outskirts of bigger cities, lower pop areas."
This is consistent with what I heard from Softbank Japan, the first with a large deployment of Massive MIMO. Softbank told me they tuned for better performance at the cell edge rather than greater total speeds. Beamforming/Beamshaping gives the operator many ways to focus the signal as desired.
Pal adds, "DNA has also a fixed-line business (broadband, cable TV), mainly in bigger cities. They have been pushing fully unlimited 4G MBB, now their mobile data volumes exceed their fixed-line volumes. In Europe the 3.5GHz spectrum auctions are coming up, operators are expected to acquire ~100MHz each (TDD). We are helping some of them with spectrum valuation, capacity modeling etc. Lot of focus on 3.5GHz and massive MIMO, fixed-to-mobile bb substitution."
3.4-4.2 GHz will add 300 MHz or more in most countries, enough to double the spectrum available. The higher frequencies have shorter reach, which could require many more cells. While the problem is not as acute as in mmWave, this would make the deployment more expensive. Massive MIMO beamforming is working much better than most of us expected. This could be a practical solution.
Antennas are smaller at higher frequencies. I believe 32 3.5 GHz antennas would fit on most towers. The cost of more antennas, even including modified leases, could be much less than the costs of new cells. I'd welcome anyone who could provide perspective and cost estimates.
Rewheel.fi was one of the first sites to report how higher caps - some unlimited - are spreading. In France, Free offers 100 gigabytes of 4G for 20 euros/month, which Jennie bought on our last trip to Paris. The site is loaded with data on mobile companies often hard to find at other public sites.