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U.S. Wireless: 75% Fewer Basestations Than Comparable Europe
Written by Dave Burstein   
Saturday, 25 June 2011 17:04

U.S._versus_Spain_towersRobin Bienenstock of Bernstein makes clear why the U.S. has wireless issues: less investment. “Let's take California and Spain as an example. Telefonica has some 33,000 base stations in Spain (yes, miserable, economically imploding Spain). Conveniently, California is a similar size, has a similar topography, and has very similar population density. In California, AT&T has just over 6,000 base stations. The spectrum allocation per pop in these two operators (TEF in Spain and AT&T in California) is remarkably similar. A similar analysis looking at New Jersey and Massachusetts vs the Netherlands shows similar results.

Why are European networks so much denser than American networks? In large part the answer lies (again) in regulation. In Europe, the spectrum auctions of last decade came with 'use it or lose it clauses' that obliged operators to build a minimum of base stations or face sanctions from fines to loss of spectrum. The result is clear to any American visiting Europe… and more frustratingly obvious to any European visiting the States.”

A few years ago, Americans could claim this was acceptable because our prices were lower. That's no longer true, as the gap (by many measures) has been eliminated since the elimination of AT&T Wireless and Nextel, reducing the U.S. from six to four national carriers. If Julius had any courage, he'd raise American standards closer to European ones.

“European spectrum auctions scheduled for 2011 and 2012 will further increase the relative network density of European operators by increasing available spectrum to operators (in some cases by 75%). These auctions will also often require operators to build LTE in rural places before rolling it out in urban settings.”