Network sharing has become a standard part of the operating model for mobile operators, and the trend is accelerating. Operators have been able to reduce the total cost of ownership by up to 30 percent while improving network quality through sharing a variety of both active and passive equipment. 5G will be no exception, with operators eyeing new ways of accelerating the deployment of an otherwise daunting investment.
The cost savings potential for network sharing is even stronger with 5G, as greenfield deployment is better suited for sharing because it avoids the cost of network consolidation. For example, the cost of small-cell deployment can be reduced by up to 50 percent if three players share the same network. But the rationale for sharing extends beyond cost, as it could solve many practical roadblocks of 5G deployment in urban areas, such as the potential for urban disruption and visual pollution from the installation of excessive equipment and fiber.
Given these arguments for network sharing, operators will need to have strong commercial rationale to justify stand-alone deployment of 5G, rather than sharing a common 5G network. Although such cases may exist for certain operators in particular markets, for many operators, sharing will be a necessity and requires preparation now.