Capital Spending Update
All four nationwide carriers have now forecast capital spending for 2018. Together they plan to spend $53 billion, a 12% increase from 2017. AT&T predicts the biggest increase, thanks to FirstNet, and Sprint projects the biggest percentage increase. Fiber is expected to be a major focus of investment ... Verizon noted on its earnings call that "organic" development of fiber was more likely than fiber acquisitions in the months ahead.
Meanwhile cloud service providers plan to invest an estimated $60 billion* in 2018, with Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft leading the way. Cloud capex is growing faster than carrier capex as data centers expand and become more distributed.

AT&T's data centers are reportedly for sale again, but the chatter around this seems to be dying down. If a deal does materialize, look for AT&T to lease the data centers back from the buyer, which is more likely to be a private REIT than a strategic buyer.

5G update
We've been hearing for a while that LTE radio equipment deployed this year will be able to support 5G through software upgrades. Last week, Ericsson said that even legacy equipment going back to 2015 will be software-upgradeable to 5G, as long as carriers are deploying 5G in the same bands they're using for LTE. New frequency bands, like 3.5 GHz or millimeter wave bands, will require new radios, antennas and baseband processors.

Nokia launched its own baseband processor this month as part of a 5G-ready chipset the company calls ReefShark. Nokia engineers in Finland and Silicon Valley developed ReefShark, which also includes a digital front-end chip, and antenna elements based on the same radio frequency integrated circuits used in smartphones. Nokia says that by growing a mobile phone antenna instead of shrinking a macro antenna, it's creating antenna elements that are significantly smaller than those in use today. Elimination of heat sinks also shrinks the antenna. Antenna size is a key consideration for network operators as they increase the number of antennas per cell site.

Silicon Valley startup Blue Danube is preparing to trial an active antenna that it says can support simultaneous beamforming over multiple frequency bands. Again the idea is to help operators support more users with a single compact antenna and deploy more antennas per site. Blue Danube, which is partially owned by AT&T, has been working on its antenna technology since 2013.
*Cloud capex estimate from Raymond James Research and FactSet.

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The definitive guide to base transceiver station antennas for wireless networks. This primary research includes antenna design analysis, in-depth forecasting of antenna trends, and geographic demand data, as well as market share by revenue and by shipments for 19 leading global antenna vendors. See more NB Reports Research .