5G mmWave: Ecosystem, Economics Becoming Attractive (Part 2)

Read the part 1 of 5G mmWave: Ecosystem, Economics Becoming Attractive here.

5G ecosystem is thriving. The number of operators rolling out 5G networks, increasing penetration of 5G chipset-based devices and growing attach rate to 5G data plans, all have come together to give 5G a faster adoption rate than 4G. Close to 200 operators across 75+ countries have gone live with 5G networks within just two years of the launch of the first 5G network. 4G took almost four years to cross this milestone. Close to half a billion 5G smartphones have been shipped globally in just nine quarters since the shipment of the first 5G smartphone. 4G smartphones took 16 quarters to reach the same milestone. We forecast 5G smartphone shipments to cross more than half a billion in 2021, which means almost one in two smartphones shipped by the end of this year would be 5G capable. This is significant.

The Second Wave of 5G

With all this traction, the mobile industry is now entering the second growth wave of 5G. We can call it “True 5G”. The 5G mobile networks are changing in two major ways:

  • From 5G NR NSA (Non-Standalone) to 5G NR SA (Standalone) architecture, enabling many true 5G use cases, network slicing, lower latency network and so on.
  • Expanding the spectrum portfolio by adding a higher-bandwidth 5G mmWave spectrum to the existing 5G sub-6GHz spectrum to enable significantly higher capacity, multiple Gigabit throughputs and lower cost per GB among other benefits.

While the transition to 5G NR SA is happening fast, the mmWave spectrum adoption is in the early stages as it is a function of spectrum availability across geographies, though it is becoming broadly available in key geographies in the near term. Further acceleration of the mmWave adoption will be driven by more clarity among Communication Service Providers (CSPs) around the mmWave economics, recuperating investments (ROI), and potentially lucrative use cases.

In the previous analysis (see here), we highlighted how the 5G ecosystem is growing and the unit economics around mmWave, and how it can reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) significantly to help accelerate the ROI for CSPs.

To further help CSPs understand the high-potential use cases and related ARPU to build upon the traditional smartphone data revenue via mmWave, Bell Labs Consulting conducted a detailed techno-economic modeling analysis based on real-world scenarios. Bell Labs has taken Europe as the market for this business case analysis.


As a real scenario case study, a CSP with a 30% share in a market such as the UK can capture nearly 130% more or 4200 PB in additional data traffic annually over the next five years by targeting 5G mmWave deployments in the following scenarios:

  1. Hot Zone Deployment: Transportation hubs, indoor shopping malls, stadiums, outdoor venues
  2. Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) in Households: Underserved home, communities, SOHOs
  3. FWA in Enterprises: Offices, Small and Medium Businesses, etc.
UK Operator Annual Mobile Traffic
Source: Bell Labs Consulting

Most of the above scenarios are highly underserved across markets when it comes to use cases usually associated with fixed broadband access, choice of service provider, pricing, and service satisfaction. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the growing demand for broadband in households, and as we began resuming normal lives after the pandemic, the hotspot deployments in public locations became important.

Cost Efficiencies

The key here is to capture the significant data traffic opportunity at important dense locations across different types of devices by building a high-capacity, high-throughput and cost-efficient network. This can be only driven by deploying a mmWave 5G solution, which offers as much as 800MHz bandwidth versus 100MHz bandwidth available for a sub-6GHz solution. This translates into more GBs served per MHz of bandwidth, reducing the overall cost per GB versus the continuous investments in mid-band spectrum-based infrastructure over the years to capture the incremental data traffic growth in high-density hotspot locations.

Cost per GB of 5G mmWave and 5G Sub-6 GHz at train station hot zone
Source: Bell Labs Consulting

Business Case

From the TCO and per GB cost-savings perspective, mmWave 5G is cost-efficient. Additionally, from the incremental revenue capture and ROI perspective, the business case is even more lucrative. mmWave can complement the 4G, 5G mid-band and fixed broadband Wi-Fi in many scenarios, be it stadiums, shopping malls or offices.

Sensitivity of the 5G mmWave business case payback period to hot zone subscriber density
Source: Bell Labs Consulting

For smartphone use cases, the business viability for 5G mmWave works well in scenarios with 1,000-3,000 subscribers per hot zone. As the subscriber density increases from 1,000 to 3,000, the business viability improves as the ROI period of the 5G mmWave business case reduces. However, the study also estimates that beyond 3,000 subscribers, the business viability flattens out due to a reduced number of hot zones featuring such user density. Therefore, the 5G mmWave nicely complements sub-6GHz to serve in underpenetrated, hard-to-reach and underserved outdoor and indoor segments such as malls, train stations and busy streets.  The provision of managed connectivity for office and enterprise premises also looks like a lucrative new opportunity for operators, according to the study.

Consider the deployment of an mmWave hotspot at a train station as an example. This could seamlessly and adequately serve multiple high-throughput (downlink and uplink) use cases, like video security surveillance, analytics, IoT ticketing machines, AR workforce, autonomous ADVs, connected billboards and real-time train arrival tracking. This type of deployment with respect to the investment for enterprise-grade connectivity, driving operational efficiencies and savings, can offer a significant revenue opportunity for the CSP.

For such a use case, a CSP should look at a payback period of just under three years for its investments. This makes 5G mmWave an attractive business case for such targeted applications where there is a latent need with incremental data traffic across multiple use cases and, therefore, a significant monetization opportunity with a faster ROI.

mmWave for Operators
Source: Bell Labs Consulting

Bell Labs quantifies the revenue boost for a CSP in Europe as an 8% increase in the top line annually in five years. This is possible by serving the users with unlimited data plans at a relatively higher price point than the traditional smartphone data plans but cheaper or on a par with the fixed broadband plans in underserved high-density locations or homes or business users with laptops. The laptops usually contribute to more than 95% of the total download or upload data traffic in a typical office space. This also drives the need for CSPs, OEMs and the ecosystem to have 5G mmWave support in a business laptop as a de-facto specification similar to Wi-Fi 6. It also warrants making available more 5G mmWave-capable consumer-grade laptops in key markets where CSPs are deploying or planning to deploy 5G mmWave FWA networks.

Capitalizing on these opportunities, the CSP is staring at a minimum revenue potential of over $355 million annually in a market such as the UK. This ARPU opportunity could be even higher in markets such as the US, Japan and South Korea, and high-scale 5G FWA mmWave options in underpenetrated markets such as India and Brazil.

Incremental Revenue Potential
Source: Bell Labs Consulting


In this second wave of the 5G era, 5G mmWave-based networks will help CSPs deliver “true 5G” experiences as well as capture the monetization opportunities not available before. The above analysis provides a direction for CSPs on the immediate, low-hanging and high-impact use cases beyond smartphones, AR/VR and cloud gaming.

Considering the characteristics as well as capabilities of the 5G mmWave spectrum, developing targeted 5G mmWave hot zones will be the right approach for CSPs in this second wave to help scale the network and realize the true 5G promise.

These key strategic considerations should not only accelerate the penetration of 5G mmWave-grade broadband in existing underserved markets but also support newer use cases and services requiring reliable, secure, cost-efficient and faster downlink and uplink throughputs.

Scaling these deployments across public, household or enterprise premises and newer devices, the different use cases will help operators capture the incremental data traffic and boost the top line with relatively faster ROI.

In some markets such as the US and Europe, 5G mmWave offers cost-effective broadband choices to the target organizations. In markets such as India, it could help in enterprise and social digital transformation while also presenting a case to bridge the digital divide as the network and technology specifications mature.

Related Posts






5G包含丰富的元素,可以为网络运营商带来全新的业务能力。在5G网络部署的初期,运营商普遍选择了5G NSA非独立组网模式,即依托4G EPC核心网来承载新的5G NR业务。而毫米波(6GHz-110GHz)结合包括调制解调、信道编码、波束成形、天线分集在内的先进通信技术,将能在NSA向SA独立组网平滑过渡、回传网络升级和构建5G密集网络的过程中发挥重要的作用。


更多频谱应用于5G能推动5G 愿景的实现,同时释放更多的商业价值。例如,在sub-6GHz频段,5G可以提供良好的覆盖和高速网络连接,而如果将其与丰富的毫米波频段相结合,网络能力将得到全方位的提升,如多千兆级别的吞吐量、更高的容量或低于10毫秒的业务延迟,从而使能一系列创新应用场景的部署。升级后的网络在具备广覆盖优势的同时,为人口密集区域提供超大的带宽和极致的用户体验。同时,毫米波的加入还将改善网络的整体效能。在特定场景下,基于毫米波的5G SA网络表现甚至好于5G sub-6GHz NR网络,而两者的结合往往意味着更出色的网络能力。




5G Needs All Spectrum Bands

在每一次技术迭代中,电信运营商最关心的始终是如何从巨额投资中获得回报。其投资主要包括面向网络基础设施的资本支出、取得频谱的成本以及网络维护和运营所需的费用。在2G、3G、4G时代,投资回报很大程度上取决于移动终端的普及速度。与此同时,围绕消费者的移动业务也从最初的实时通信发展到数字内容消费,再到移动金融、线上购物等。凭借着更加丰富、多样的频谱资源,并结合包括AI人工智能、IoT物联网、云计算、边缘计算区块链在内的多种前沿技术,5G的大带宽将为移动业务每用户平均收入(ARPU)收入的提升带来新的机遇,并推动企业和社会的数字化转型。而融入数字化转型的浪潮能帮助电信运营商开启新的业务增长点,收回在毫米波频谱、5G SA核心网络和相关技术方面的投资。

GSMA-I(GSMA Intelligence)近期的一项研究表明,毫米波在某些应用场景下有明显优势,如人口密集的城市、室内部署和固定无线接入,部署毫米波可以显著降低5G网络总拥有成本(TCO),最终帮助运营商加快收回投资。在这些场景下,相比3.5GHz网络,使用毫米波或毫米波+ 3.5GHz网络的用户消费的数据更多。在中国和欧洲,实验表明部署毫米波频段能够为运营商节省可观的成本。

mmWave Enables Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

此外,随着开放无线接入网(Open RAN)技术(参见此处)的兴起,电信运营商能够以更为灵活的方式组建网络,减少对传统大型网络设备供应商的依赖,并大大节省5G NR毫米波网络的部署支出,进而优化网络的总拥有成本。

例如:在日本,快速崛起的电信运营商乐天移动一直致力于建设革命性的虚拟化、云原生5G网络,并在毫米波(28GHz)频段实现了低成本高效率的5G网络部署,开始引领5G Open RAN的商用。乐天移动正在建设近8000个5G站点,其接入网络包括AirSPAN毫米波分布式射频单元(dRU),基于高通5G RAN平台FSM100xx(可为小型基站提供调制解调器—射频系统的端到端解决方案)的小型基站,以及虚拟化的分布处理单元vDU。乐天移动称构建全新的5G毫米波网络与直接采用传统供应商设备相比,设施成本降低了60%。

Rakuten 5G mmWave RAN Solutions


  • 三星旗舰手机Galaxy Note 20 Ultra毫米波版的BoM成本比sub-6GHz版仅高出10%(参见此处)。
  • iPhone 12是今年最畅销的5G手机,其毫米波版与sub-6GHz版的成本差距也远低于预期,这使苹果能够在iPhone 12和iPhone 12 Pro系列中增加OLED、UWB等重要组件(参见此处)。
  • FWA是5G毫米波的一个重要应用场景, Counterpoint预测未来十年5G FWA CPE的销量可能超过10亿(参见此处)。 成本方面,毫米波版CPE与sub-6GHz版CPE的差距也在缩小。
  • 毫米波终端成本的下降也为运营商加快商用5G NR 毫米波服务提供了更为有利的局面。




5G mmWave: Ecosystem & Economics Becoming Attractive (Part 1)

Read the part 2 of 5G mmWave: Ecosystem, Economics Becoming Attractive here.

Change is in the air. COVID-19 has wrought massive changes on how people work, learn and interact. New technology can enable the accelerated changes caused by the pandemic to become a positive transformation with benefits accruing in many directions.

While 5G  is a key to unlocking part of this potential transformation, concerns have been raised about the role of mmWave and whether the time is right to roll-out the highest frequencies within the 5G family. We believe that mmWave will be a cornerstone to the success of 5G – though not without challenges.

5G is a Spectrum Game

The success of 5G is a function of the combinations of spectrum used. The promise of building robust, scalable, high-speed, low-latency, and high-capacity networks is based on how astutely communications service providers (CSPs) can leverage one of their most valuable assets, the radio spectrum. This holds true for 5G and will apply equally to future networks such as 6G.

The benefits of 5G compound through the adoption of different elements. Adding 5G NR to an existing network in a Non-Standalone (NSA) architecture gets CSPs out of the starting blocks. But moving to a standalone (SA) core network, faster backhaul and network densification enable more of the 5G promise to be realized. The key driver, however, will be the use of a higher-order spectrum (6GHz-110GHz) coupled with advanced modulation, channel coding, beamforming, antenna diversity, and other techniques.

5G mmWave Value Proposition is Unmatched

As 5G expands to use a wider range of frequencies in combination, it enables greater value. For example, 5G in a limited slice of the sub-6GHz spectrum provides good coverage and faster speeds, but it will not offer gigabit level throughputs, higher capacity, or sub-10ms latencies. However, combine that sub-6 GHz spectrum with a much larger tranche of mmWave spectrum and a variety of deployment scenarios become possible, such as mixing catering to high peak traffic loads in dense urban areas, while meeting broader coverage needs. This enables greater efficiencies throughout the network. Even a 5G standalone with mmWave layer can be better than a 5G standalone sub-6GHz network in certain use-cases, although a combination of them both is usually even better.

Applications enabled by 5G will include 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), Cloud Gaming leveraging 5G MEC (Multi-Access Edge Computing) technology to 5G NR Network Sliced Private Networks, XR applications, and more.

5G is defined by its three primary dimensions: throughput, capacity in terms of a number of connected devices, and latency). mmWave spectrum plays a key role in enabling all three. Put simply, if these are the 5G cake, mmWave is the icing on the top.

5G mmWave Cost Economics. Outlook is Impressive Across the Value Chain.

5G mmwave Benefits - Counterpoint ResearchWith every generation, the biggest question CSPs look at is the returns on the investments for new generation network infrastructure CAPEX, cost of spectrum, and the OPEX to maintain and run the network. 2G, 3G, 4G ROI was largely dependent on the availability of mobile devices that drove a massive wave of personal transformation from real-time communication to rich content consumption to on-the-go commerce and more. The integration of broad-spectrum 5G and adjacent technologies AI, IoT, Cloud, Edge Computing, Blockchain, etc) will unlock new ARPU opportunities enabling new waves of enterprise and social transformation not previously possible.

These new waves will enable CSPs to recoup the investment in mmWave spectrum, 5G SA core networks, and adjacent technologies.

An interesting recent study highlights the ability of mmWave 5G in different scenarios including dense urban areas, indoor deployments, and FWA to reduce the overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) significantly which can help accelerate the ROI for operators eventually. These were scenarios where more connected users, consuming more data on the mmWave only or mmWave + 3.5GHz network vs a 3.5GHz only network. This was tested in China and Europe with both showing promising savings for the operators when the mmWave spectrum is deployed.

Further, with the rise of Open RAN networks (see here) and clever approaches to working with the telecoms supply chain, the CAPEX for deploying a 5G NR mmWave network deployment can be cut significantly, boosting the TCO. For example:

Japan’s fast-growing CSP Rakuten is disrupting the market by building out a highly cost-effective 5G in mmWave (28GHz) network. It is deploying almost 8000 sites using AirSPAN mmWave distributed Radio Unit (dRU) small cell, utilizing the Qualcomm 5G RAN platform (FSM100xx) for a complete Modem-RF system-level solution for small cells, combined with a vDU in a holistic solution.  Rakuten is claiming the 5G mmWave network infrastructure implementation is 60% cheaper than traditional systems working directly with vendors.

In devices, according to our BoM Cost Analysis, the delta between a mmWave and a sub-6GHz only smartphone is narrowing fast. For example:

  • The flagship Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra mmWave variant costs a mere 10% more than the sub-6 GHz variant in terms of total component costs (see here).
  • For becoming the most popular and best-selling 5G phone this year, iPhone 12, the cost delta between the mmWave version and sub-6GHz is quite lower than expected, which gave Apple to add other important components such as OLED, UWB across the lineup from iPhone 12 to iPhone 12 Pro series. (see here).
  • With respect to 5G CPE, our research shows 5G FWA is a significant opportunity with more than a billion 5G FWA CPEs likely to be sold over this decade (see here). The cost between a mmWave CPE vs sub-6GHz only CPE has narrowed significantly, offering a great opportunity for CSPs to roll-out 5G NR mmWave networks without worrying about the mmWave-based device costs to impact user adoption.

5G mmWave Ecosystem & Economics no Longer a Bottleneck

While there remain challenges in migrating to 5G, there are promising economic indicators in the analysis of costs and potential benefits. Leading components vendors are already on their third generation of application processors and modems, infrastructure vendors are innovating to enable CSPs to rapidly enhance coverage. And handset vendors are rapidly bringing down the cost of 5G-capable smartphones.

Cost-benefit analyses are pointing to multiple ways in which CSPs can achieve lower TCO and greater ROI when deploying mmWave. As the standards mature, we expect more and more use cases will become possible and this will encourage many organizations to participate. We expect that by early- to mid-2022 we will see an inflection point for mmWave-based networks and devices that will help propagate the transformation is only just beginning.

Related Posts

Term of Use and Privacy Policy

Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited


In order to access Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited (Company or We hereafter) Web sites, you may be asked to complete a registration form. You are required to provide contact information which is used to enhance the user experience and determine whether you are a paid subscriber or not.
Personal Information When you register on we ask you for personal information. We use this information to provide you with the best advice and highest-quality service as well as with offers that we think are relevant to you. We may also contact you regarding a Web site problem or other customer service-related issues. We do not sell, share or rent personal information about you collected on Company Web sites.

How to unsubscribe and Termination

You may request to terminate your account or unsubscribe to any email subscriptions or mailing lists at any time. In accessing and using this Website, User agrees to comply with all applicable laws and agrees not to take any action that would compromise the security or viability of this Website. The Company may terminate User’s access to this Website at any time for any reason. The terms hereunder regarding Accuracy of Information and Third Party Rights shall survive termination.

Website Content and Copyright

This Website is the property of Counterpoint and is protected by international copyright law and conventions. We grant users the right to access and use the Website, so long as such use is for internal information purposes, and User does not alter, copy, disseminate, redistribute or republish any content or feature of this Website. User acknowledges that access to and use of this Website is subject to these TERMS OF USE and any expanded access or use must be approved in writing by the Company.
– Passwords are for user’s individual use
– Passwords may not be shared with others
– Users may not store documents in shared folders.
– Users may not redistribute documents to non-users unless otherwise stated in their contract terms.

Changes or Updates to the Website

The Company reserves the right to change, update or discontinue any aspect of this Website at any time without notice. Your continued use of the Website after any such change constitutes your agreement to these TERMS OF USE, as modified.
Accuracy of Information: While the information contained on this Website has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, We disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. User assumes sole responsibility for the use it makes of this Website to achieve his/her intended results.

Third Party Links: This Website may contain links to other third party websites, which are provided as additional resources for the convenience of Users. We do not endorse, sponsor or accept any responsibility for these third party websites, User agrees to direct any concerns relating to these third party websites to the relevant website administrator.

Cookies and Tracking

We may monitor how you use our Web sites. It is used solely for purposes of enabling us to provide you with a personalized Web site experience.
This data may also be used in the aggregate, to identify appropriate product offerings and subscription plans.
Cookies may be set in order to identify you and determine your access privileges. Cookies are simply identifiers. You have the ability to delete cookie files from your hard disk drive.