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LTE will be launched by 60% of operators in Latin America by 2013

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The majority of operators in Latin America plan to launch LTE by the end of 2013, according to a new industry survey by Informa Telecoms & Media. Over 60% of operators plan to launch LTE in the next two years, with 30% launching this year and 32.5% going to market next year.

"The Latin America results are in line with global results, which also point to 60% of operators targeting to launch LTE between 2012 and 2013,", says Marceli Passoni, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. "This is unprecedented given that previous mobile technologies including 3G were deployed in developed markets first, and then in emerging markets such as Latin America several years later. Our survey finds that LTE will be rolled out in Latin America at the same time as most deployments globally."

Informa's LTE survey, with 102 respondents based in Latin America, finds that 67.5% of those respondents believe there is a viable business case to launch LTE today, with leading drivers for the deployments being creating new revenue streams (35%), adding capacity given it is not sufficient on current networks (32.5%), and meeting licensing or other regulatory requirements (27.5%).

Puerto Rico was the first country in Latin America to have LTE, with the launch of the service by AT&T Mobility in November 2011, followed by Uruguayan stated-owned operator Antel and cable and satellite TV operator Sky in Brazil in December 2011. So far in 2012, Puerto Rican operators Claro and Open Mobile have launched LTE services, followed by UNE in Colombia and Orange in the Dominican Republic.

LTE spectrum auctions have already taken place in some countries in the region, such as Brazil and Chile, and are expected in Colombia and Argentina during 2012, while auction plans have been announced in Peru, Jamaica and Uruguay. Informa Telecoms & Media forecasts an LTE customer base of around 230,000 users at end-2012 in Latin America, growing at a CAGR of 152% until 2017, when it will reach around 58.6 million users.

Most of the LTE spectrum band launches in Latin America will be in the 2.6GHz, 700MHz and 1.7-2.1GHz bands but operators are also interested in other 11 different bands, according to the survey. "The industry will have to solve the spectrum fragmentation issue that could potentially create difficulties for LTE take-up in the region," Passoni says.

"Data services are growing at an intense pace in the region and LTE will be the next change-out in the market which will help mobile operators to cope with the ever-growing demand for data services. The technology will enable operators to better and more cost-effectively transport data traffic on their networks."

"The main challenge for Latin American operators is that LTE has not been widely deployed globally and has yet to generate the economies of scale required to bring equipment prices down. However, the speed at which LTE is being launched worldwide compared with previous technologies will quickly generate economies of scale which will drive down costs and prices," Passoni adds.

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