260 LTE networks commercially launched in 97 countries

Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) confirms that 260 LTE networks have commercially launched in 95 countries as per Evolution to LTE Report released by GSA.

112 LTE networks were launched in 2013. 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 percent more than a year ago.

Alan Hadden, president, 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 (Voice over LTE), 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 multi-carrier support for Category 4 user devices (150 Mbps theoretical peak downlink speed), and deploying LTE-Advanced 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 as over 30 models.

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 percent of commercially launched LTE networks. 115 operators worldwide have now launched LTE1800 (band 3) systems, 37 percent 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 licenses 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 percent of networks in commercial service today, followed by 800 MHz (band 20) used in 12 percent of networks, and AWS (band 4) used in 8 percent of networks.

Interest in the TDD mode (TD-LTE) has strengthened. For the first time GSA confirms that more than 10 percent 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.

The report also highlights the benefits and opportunities using LTE Broadcast, now being trialled by several operators. LTE Broadcast enables multiple users to receive the same content simultaneously. It offers mobile-network operators a profitable business proposition through service differentiation, new revenue opportunities, and more efficient distribution of live and other digital media.

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