Mobile network operators love to compete on performance (a few forget they need to make money!). Throughput takes most attention as does coverage. Other parameters like latency has been gaining popularity as data consumption increases. Not many MNOs talk about the sites they operate, except in financial statements and annual reports. I wanted to see if the cell site count has any bearing on performance. Can anything be judged by it other than an indicator of capex and opex?
Cell sites serve to fulfill coverage requirements first, and capacity requirements second when the network is loaded. Operators who are spectrum rich can defer site expansion for capacity purpose. Those who are spectrum poor will be hard pressed to build more sites.
Interestingly, more sites does not equate to a better network. Verizon has more subscribers and fewer cell sites than AT&T or Sprint but it exceeds both on performance. On the other hand, a low ratio of subscribers to cell site is not indicative of high performance. For example, Wind Mobile’s performance is well below an incumbent like Rogers.