Deployment Trends in Major US Markets

Some revealing deployment patterns in Denver, Seattle, San Fransisco, and L.A.

Lesson #1: “Licensed” does not equal “deployed.”

It’s relatively simple to find out how much radio frequency spectrum each mobile network operator has licensed in the U.S., using public data from the FCC. But it’s hard to say how, or even if, that spectrum has been deployed by the operator.

That just changed, however.

With our sensors, we can now monitor the full radio spectrum across multiple markets to reveal detailed patterns of spectrum occupancy. Finally, we can see where operators have excess spectrum, or none at all.

Let’s take a look at four large markets.

What’s going on out west

Lesson #2: Denver stands out in ways other than its elevation.

Our data immediately shows us several interesting patterns among large western cities:

  • Across Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, T-Mobile has deployed almost 100% of their spectrum capacity, while Sprint has a surplus (especially in Denver, where it has deployed just a tiny fraction).
  • Denver is qualitatively different than the West coast markets. In Denver, AT&T has deployed about 2x more bandwidth than in Seattle. Verizon and AT&T are at about 20% higher occupancy in the Mile High City.

Our data and algorithms illustrate broad trends, like these, but they also provide more granular insights. As we add more data and increase our sample sizes, we can begin to answer questions like:

  • Which technologies (3G/4G) and which spectrum bands are deployed by different operators — and in what markets?
  • Are there geographical differences between markets and operators in the way spectrum is deployed?
  • How has deployment changed over time?

Or, perhaps more powerfully:

  • How is an operator’s deployment likely to change in the future?

We know that network forecasting can be tricky, but with more data comes more clarity. We’ll pass on what we learn in future installments and keep you updated.

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