2013 Ends with 260 LTE Networks in Service
Published on: 15th Jan 2014
The latest update to the LTE report from GSA confirms that 263 LTE networks have commercially launched in 97 countries.
A further 3 LTE networks in 2 additional countries have launched so far in 2014, raising the total to 263 commercial networks in 97 countries.
508 operators are now investing in LTE in 144 countries. This is made up of 456 firm operator commitments to build LTE networks in 135 countries, plus 52 additional operators engaged in various trials, studies, etc. in a further 9 countries. From amongst the 456 committed operators, 263 have commercially launched their services, which is 75% more than a year ago.
Alan Hadden, President of GSA, said: "GSA forecasts there will be at least 350 LTE networks in commercial service by end 2014. Key trends this year include more deployments of carrier aggregation and other LTE-Advanced features, growth in voice services enabled by VoLTE, and a significant expansion of international LTE roaming services. 2014 is also expected to be important for LTE Broadcast."
The report highlights a growing list of operators who have commercially launched or are preparing to introduce enhancements to their networks including multicarrier support for Category 4 user devices (150 Mbps theoretical peak downlink speed), and deploying LTE-A features, especially carrier aggregation. Many additional operators are trialling carrier aggregation with some combining two 20 MHz carriers to enable a theoretical peak downlink speed of 300 Mbps, for commercialisation by mid-2014.
Voice service for LTE users moved up the agenda for many operators as network coverage increased (now nationwide in a number of countries) and as the penetration and usage of LTE-capable smartphones has increased. The first wave of VoLTE service launches, including support for HD voice, has begun with several more launches expected in 2014. The number of VoLTE-compatible phones on the market has also significantly improved in recent months, estimated at over 30 handsets.
The majority of LTE operators have deployed the FDD mode of the standard.
The most widely used band in network deployments continues to be 1800 MHz which is used in 44% of commercially launched LTE networks. 115 operators worldwide have now launched LTE1800 (band 3) systems, 37% higher than 6 months ago, in 61 countries, either as a single band system, or as part of a multi-band deployment. As 1800 MHz is the prime band for LTE deployments worldwide, it will greatly assist international roaming for mobile broadband. Mobile licences for 1800 MHz have been awarded to 350+ operators in nearly 150 countries.
The next most popular contiguous bands are 2.6 GHz (band 7) as used in 27% of networks in commercial service today, followed by 800 MHz (band 20) used in 12% of networks, and AWS (band 4) used in 8% of networks.
Interest in the TDD mode (TD-LTE) has strengthened. For the first time GSA confirms that more than 10% of commercial LTE networks incorporate the TDD mode. Worldwide, 28 LTE TDD systems are commercially launched in 21 countries, including 13 operators who have deployed both FDD and TDD modes in their mobile operations.
International LTE roaming is commercial reality. Several roaming agreements have been announced and implemented as referenced in the report, and many further market developments are anticipated in the coming year.