In 2020 and 2021, U.S. telecom will be driven by how fast T-Mobile builds and markets its "best in the Western World" 5G network. It now has a better network than Verizon in much of the U.S. It will offer 5G at over 100 Mbps to 80-85% of the U.S. in about three years. I believe much of that will be in the next 12 months. There's little practical advantage, of courage, of speeds over ~25 Mbps, but customers still want to buy.

That drives a stake into Verizon's business model, which was built a decade ago on premium prices justified by the better network. All the U.S. carriers have been hemorrhaging subs to T-Mobile because of lower prices. T-Mobile and AT&T came close to network parity with Verizon about three years ago and consumers are catching on. The $billion restoration in Verizon capex will not be enough to pull them ahead,

T-Mobile is committed to spending ~$10 billion a year in capex for three years. That's easily enough to reach 35-45,000 towers, over 80% of the population. Sprint's golden 5G 2.5 GHz spectrum is remarkably cheap to upgrade to 5G and over 100 Mbps.

Unlike Verizon's millimeter wave, it can reach most of the country without new towers or small cells. The reach at 2.5 GHz, with 64-128 antenna Massive MIMO, is similar to 3G & 4G networks. The Chinese are upgrading 500,000 cells at a cost of ~US50,000 each. The contracts have been let and the totals are public.

Verizon has been cutting capex to raise dividends since 2015. It's apex then was $17,775 billion, $19.3 billion in 2020 after accounting for inflation. Hans has increased 2020 from $17.5 billion to $18.5 billion, still below the historic level. 

In the spring of 2018, Lowell and Hans made the gutsy decision to use millimeter wave to build the best network in the world, delivering true gigabits to many. But Hans has refused to fund a rapid rollout, fearing the effect on the stock price and his options. 

$2 billion more in capex would fund ~60,000 small cells annually and keep Verizon ahead. 

 

 

17,775 19.3 9%