Between 2018 and 2020, mobile operators will invest $0.5 trillion worldwide in mobile capex, excluding spectrum acquisitions. Some operators in the most developed markets are upgrading their 4G networks to faster speeds and lower latencies, while 5G investment is still in its infancy. In developing countries, many operators are still investing in increasing the coverage and capacity of their 3G and 4G networks.
The expansion of 5G to a larger footprint could require incremental capex, above the approximately $160 billion expected in 2020. As many mobile markets face pressure on traditional mobile revenues, any further capex increase beyond 2020 would push global capex as a percentage of revenue above the 15% expected during 2018–2020. There is little guidance on 5G operator mobile capex around the globe. Ultimately, it will depend on a number of factors including the model (standalone, non-standalone or phased approach) selected for 5G network deployments, the targeted network coverage, the range of spectrum bands in use, and the availability of fibre infrastructure and nationwide LTE networks. It is also reasonable to assume a gradual rollout path; indications from the Chinese mobile operators are that 5G investment will follow a more gradual route and over a longer period than 4G, roughly seven years, from 2018 to 2025. Japanese operators claim that the deployment of 5G will not lead to any significant spike in capex