NTT DOCOMO has set a goal of 2.5 million 5G connections in the next year. It expects 20 million in 2022 or 2023. It has 500 upgraded towers and rapidly will cover more than half the country. 40,000 signed up in the first few weeks.
Capex guidance for the year is 570 billion yen, US$5.35 billion. That's far below the 2017 figure of 643 billion yen, $6 billion. That's consistent with Deutsche Telekom, Verizon, AT&T, and FT/Orange, all building 5G without a significant capex increase.
Softbank and KDDI also have launched some 5G service. Softbank intends to reach 90% of the population in Q1 2022. They are doing competitive builds in the cities but working together in rural areas.
Rakuten, the extremely innovative 4th carrier, intended to turn on 5G in June but is behind schedule.
Seizo Onoe, DOCOMO CTO, has been a world leader in 5G since 2017 and before. His DOCOMO colleagues include Sato Nagata, Vice-chair of the key 3GPP RAN 1. The people who invented the key 5G technologies look to him to understand what the carriers needed. His presentation, myths in, exploded the expectation that 5G would be expensive. In fact, Verizon, DT, FT, and many others are deploying 5G without raising capex.
90% of 5G through 2022 (or later) will be on existing towers.
"2. 5G will require substantial investment
One of the boldest statements in Onoe’s speech was that deploying 5G will not require a ton of investment. ... In fact, Onoe actually expects capital expenditures for NTT DOCOMO to drop. (They have)
3. 5G will replace 4G
4. 5G will require more spectrum
5. For 5G, everything will need something new
Many researchers and industry professionals are eager to find as many future uses for 5G as possible, and to enhance or expand existing services on the new network."
Five years later, there are no new "use cases" likely to become important for years.