In short: Verizon topped the list of network capacity utilization in 2017 among 80 of the world's carriers, according to a new report from network research firm Rewheel. The mobile operator saw 57-percent of its capacity used and was followed by Europe's Play Poland and Free Mobile France at 55-percent and 39-percent, respectively. In fact, the U.S. actually led in terms of capacity utilization at 33-percent overall despite only carrying an average of 4GB per user monthly. That's on top of only ranking in the 14th spot for usage per capita. However, Verizon appears to have set the curve for that trend, with AT&T hitting just 32-percent compared to T-Mobile and Sprint's 28-percent and 15-percent usage, respectively.
Background: Given the ongoing and intensifying competition in the U.S. wireless space, those figures aren't necessarily surprising. In addition to an increased focus on preparing 5G networks and mergers meant to improve viability in a shifting market, each has placed increased emphasis on unlimited plans and offers to draw in more customers. The companies have steadily ramped up efforts to offer better shopping and customer service experiences online, resulting in decreased churn rates. Moreover, the country already begins with a lower capacity potential due to the area over which each service provider needs to maintain its network. By comparison, Nordic countries, Austria, and Korea have as much as five to ten times the density in macro site buildouts. Finnish operator Elisa, for example, ranks at the top with regard to capacity potential, according to Rewheel.
Impact: Meanwhile, network usage has increased and – in the U.S., Italy, and Finland in particular – has even begun to impact the use of Wi-Fi over the course of this year. So capacity figures seem likely to stay on an upward trend. However, a substantial amount of emphasis in the region has been placed on small cell site rollouts in pursuit of higher densification. Although that doesn't mean that US carriers aren't going to continue seeing a higher capacity usage than other regions, it might help prevent them from hitting their respective capacity limits in the long run. That's something that could also be impacted by 5G-based IoT and automation solutions, which could feasibly take up more bandwidth in total than mobile devices do. However, densification via small cell sites will almost certainly help on that front as well.