Over 300 Operators Are Investing in LTE, GSA Reports
The Global mobile Suppliers Association has confirmed that 301 operators are investing in LTE, over 50% higher than a year ago, while 57 operators have launched commercial LTE services, more than double the figure of just 27 in March 2011.
- The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) is now forecasting that there will be 128 commercial LTE networks in 56 countries by the end of 2012, more than double the current number, while IHS iSuppli forecasts there will be 748 million LTE subscribers globally by the end of 2015.
- The GSA has identified the key drivers in the near term as spectrum refarming, particularly of the 1,800-MHz band, and acceleration in the popularity of LTE TDD.
GSA has released the latest update to its Evolution to LTE report, which reveals that 242 firm commercial LTE network deployments are either in deployment, commercially launched, or are being planned, in a total of 81 countries. In addition, a further 59 operators in 14 countries are engaged in LTE trials, tests or studies, meaning that a total of 301 operators are currently investing in the 4G technology.
To date, the GSA has tracked 57 commercial networks in 32 countries:
Global LTE Network Launches, to 13 March 2012
07.09.10 (LTE TDD from 10.05.11)
Mobily (LTE TDD)
STC (LTE TDD)
AT&T Puerto Rico
Sky Brazil (LTE TDD)
Cricket (Leap Wireless)
Peoples Telephone Co-op
Softbank (LTE TDD)
Portugal Telecom (TMN)
LTE Rollout Accelerates: The GSA has confirmed that 301 operators are investing in LTE, which is over 50% higher than a year ago, while 57 operators have launched commercial LTE services, more than double the figure of just 27 in March 2011 (see World: 18 February 2011: GSA Finds 63 LTE Devices Launched Globally and 30 January 2012: Early Bird LTE Operators: January 2012 Update). The GSA is now forecasting that there will be 128 commercial LTE networks in 56 countries by the end of 2012, more than double the current number, as spectrum refarming accelerates and the popularity of LTE TDD grows. Meanwhile, IHS iSuppli forecasts there will be 748 million LTE subscribers globally by the end of 2015. Portugal is the most recent country to see LTE launches following the 800-MHz digital dividend auction in the country, with Portugal Telecom planning to extend its 4G network to cover 80% of the population by the end of April 2012 (see Portugal: 14 March 2012: Portugal Telecom Launches LTE Services).
Increasing Importance of 1,800-MHz Refarming: The GSA has identified refarmed spectrum, particularly in the 1,800-MHz band, as a key driver for network rollout, especially in Europe, where delays to the sale and release of 800-MHz digital dividend licences are holding operators back. A large number of operators, in Europe and beyond, hold spectrum in the 1,800-MHz band, which is licensed for the largely redundant 2G GSM technologies, and regulators are now allowing refarming of this band to LTE. Fourteen LTE networks in the 1,800-MHz band have been commercially launched to date, in Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and South Korea, while several more are in deployment. TeliaSonera and Net4Mobility, the LTE joint venture (JV) of Telenor and Tele2, both won licences in the Swedish 1,800-MHz spectrum auction, and have both said they plan to use the fresh bandwidth to bolster their LTE networks (see Sweden: 14 October 2011: TeliaSonera and Net4Mobility Win 1,800-MHz Spectrum, to Be Used for LTE). TeliaSonera already uses the 1,800-MHz frequency band for LTE services in Finland, Denmark, Latvia, and Lithuania (see Sweden: 25 January 2011: TeliaSonera's LTE Service—Case Study), while its Spanish subsidiary, Yoigo, plans to launch next-generation services in the band, following the acquisition of spectrum in June (see Spain: 13 June 2011: Orange and Yoigo Successful in Spanish Spectrum Auction). Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom Everything Everywhere has been given the green light to refarm its 1,800-MHz spectrum to LTE, allowing it to steal a march on its rivals as the digital dividend auction is not likely to take place until the end of this year (see United Kingdom: 14 March 2012: Everything Everywhere's 1,800-MHz LTE Launch Gets Regulatory Green Light).
US Coverage and Investment Increases: In the United States, LTE investment continues to grow as Verizon Wireless plans to expand its 4G LTE network to cover 260 million Americans by the end of 2012 as it will extend its coverage to some 400 markets this year, up from the current 200, while it aims to entice more subscribers to its 4G mobile broadband network by only introducing LTE-enabled smartphones from now on (see North America: 14 March 2012: Analyst Commentary). Meanwhile, key rival AT&T, along with MetroPCS and Leap Wireless, continues to invest, while a number of other major network operators, including T-Mobile USA, Sprint Nextel, US Cellular, Clearwire, Dish, and C Spire, have all announced plans to roll out their own networks.
Interest in LTE TDD Mode Grows: Although the majority of LTE deployments are using paired spectrum in the FDD mode, the TDD mode (unpaired spectrum) is gaining interest in several markets, and not just in the traditional TDD Asian markets. TDD is particularly attractive as there are significant spectrum resources available that are suitable for the mode that are less suited to FDD, most notably in the 2.3-GHz and 2.6-GHz bands. Five LTE TDD networks have been commercially launched, in Brazil, Japan, Poland, and Saudi Arabia, while numerous deployments and trials are under way in virtually every other region. LTE TDD provides a future-proof evolutionary path for TD-SCDMA, the 3G technology that is widely deployed in China. However, the Chinese government has recently commented that 4G licences in China will not be released for another two to three years, adding that additional trials for TD-LTE technology were required ahead of a formal launch (see China: 8 March 2012: Analyst Commentary).
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