Recap of key 5G news August 2021

By Tanya Solomon 6 min read

We want to keep you up to date with the latest, most relevant industry news. Here is a recap from this past month. 


U.S. counts more than 417K cell sites as of 2020

A survey from CTIA showed the number of U.S. cell sites grew to 417,215 at the close of 2020, compared to 67,871 cell sites turned on from 2018 - 2020. 

CTIA is a trade association representing the wireless communications industry in the U.S. The survey focused on wireless investment and indicated the growth in the U.S. was fueled by changes in the cell siting rules implemented by the FCC in 2018. 

Highlights of the survey include: 

  • $29.9 billion in capital spending in 2020 
  • The United States’ mobile industry accounts for 18% of the world’s total mobile capex (with only 5.9% of global mobile connections)
  • An increase in mobile traffic to 42.2 trillion megabytes. That’s a 208% increase since 2016.

Canada raises $7.2B in 3.5 GHz auction for 5G

Canada’s 3.5 GHz auction raised $7.2 billion and ended in higher per-MHz POP bids than the U.S.’s record-setting C-band auction. 

While the three largest Canadian providers bid the most in the auction, more small and regional carriers acquired significantly more spectrum. 

Canadian carriers paid on average $3.28 per MHz-POP for 3500 MHz spectrum. This is almost three times higher than U.S. carriers paid in the FCC’s most recent auction of 5G spectrum.

MVNO 1&1 taps Rakuten to build open RAN network

As 1&1 Telecommunication SE moves to become Germany’s 4th mobile operator, Rakuten Group forges a deal to design, build and operate an open RAN network for the operator. 

According to Rakuten, this will make it Europe’s first fully-virtualised mobile network based upon open RAN technology. 

Nikkei Asia, Asia’s financial newspaper, valued the ten-year deal to be around $2.3 billion.  

Currently, 1&1 offers MVNO services to some 10 million customers since acquiring 5G spectrum in 2019.

AT&T to connect GM vehicles to 5G

To meet the needs of an “all-electric and autonomous future,” AT&T and General Motors plan to connect millions of vehicles to AT&T’s 5G network, the companies said. 

This will extend the existing partnership between the two and leverage the cloud computing capabilities of mutual partner, Microsoft.

GM plans to add 5G connectivity in new vehicles from 2024. According to Gregory Wieboldt, AT&T SVP of global business, industry solutions, existing vehicles will begin migrating as early as 2022. 

The automaker plans to enable third parties to connect to AT&T’s 5G network to provide a range of services.

FCC lists bidders for next 5G spectrum auction

The stage is set for another bidding war between the US’s largest operators as the FCC released the list of bidders for the upcoming 3.45GHz spectrum auction. 

The operators are expected to use the mid-band spectrum for 5G services. 

Besides the large carriers, others who completed applications include a number of regional operators such as Blue Ridge Wireless, East Kentucky Network, Raptor Wireless and Resound Networks.

However, completing the application does not automatically qualify the applicant to hold an FCC licence. The winning bidders will be required to submit a long-form application after the auction closes.

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