Capacity utilization and fixed-to-mobile broadband substitution potential – A study of 64 European operators
March 2017

When LTE base stations are upgraded to 'Gigabit' speed the gigabyte volume capacity of the networks also greatly expands. We modelled LTE network capacity based on existing FDD and TDD spectrum holdings (and potential acquisitions in 2.3 and 3.4-3.8 GHz bands) and sizes of the macro site grids. Without and with Massive MIMO in the TDD bands. Topical for operators contemplating fixed-to-mobile broadband substitution ahead of upcoming 700, 1500 (SDL), 2300, 3400-3600 MHz spectrum auctions.

Key findings
  • Most European mobile operators utilized in 2016 a tiny fraction of their available network capacity
  • There are significant fixed-to-mobile broadband substitution gains that can be realized if operators unleash the abundant capacity in their networks by offering unlimited data plans
  • Mobile operators could carry today 100 GB per person per month and will soon have enough capacity (TDD/massive MIMO) for 200 GB per person per month or ˜500 GB per household
Mobile operator highlights
  • Elisa Finland: ‘Basically Unlimited Everything’ but no TDD spectrum
  • Hutchison-3 UK: Shied away from fixed-to-mobile broadband substitution due to limited spectrum but its recent acquisition of UK broadband that holds sizable 3.6 GHz TDD spectrum could prove a game changer
  • Hutchison-3 Austria: Focused on fixed-to-mobile broadband substitution with unlimited MBB plans and pioneering massive MIMO for commercial use
  • Telefonica-O2 Germany: Serious about fixed-to-mobile broadband substitution?
  • Play Poland: Unlimited data but with caveats due to very limited network capacity
  • Remaining operators: Findings and customized analysis available upon request
Country highlights
  • Finland: Country with highest fixed-to-mobile substitution potential, a staggering 190% of population
  • Poland: Country with the most limited network capacity i.e. highest current network capacity utilization and lowest fixed-to-mobile broadband substitution potential
  • Tight mobile oligopolies: In the Greek, Hungarian, Czech, Belgian and German tight mobile oligopoly markets where prices are high and data caps are very restrictive the average network capacity utilization varies from 4% in Germany to 2% in Greece. Mobile networks in these countries are literally empty.
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