U.S. wireless providers increased their spectrum efficiency 42 times since 2010, according to a new white paper released by CTIA, the wireless industry association. That matters since U.S. mobile service customers consume more data than customers in most other countries. On the other hand, every mobile generation has increased data capacity about 10 times, so we should not at all be surprised by the improvements made by 5G.
U.S. wireless networks handled 948M megabytes (MB) for every one megahertz (MHz) of spectrum in 2010 and now handle 39.9B MBs/MHz thanks to significant industry investment in networks and technology.
Among those advancements are the use of wider channels, which are inherently more efficient than smaller channels. But radio advances, including multiple-input, multiple-output radios and beamforming, also contribute.
Dynamic spectrum sharing also plays a part, allowing a 5G device to use either 4G or 5G radios and bandwidth. Dynamic spectrum sharing allows reusing 4G assets without refarming. Other forms of spectrum sharing, including the ability to aggregate licensed and unlicensed spectrum, also will help.
That increased efficiency matters for a few reasons. First, end user demand simply requires that service providers supply more bandwidth. Service providers also must decrease cost of supplied bits, to maintain the business model. Also, as traffic increasingly shifts to entertainment video, connectivity suppliers must supply drastically more capacity, for very-little incremental revenue gain, if any.