LTE momentum building
LTE appears to be consolidating its position as the predominant fourth-generation mobile networking standard.
Its 'Evolution to LTE' report says that 110 operators in 48 countries are investing in LTE networks, with 80 operators already committed to deploying the technology, up from 64 commitments two months ago. These commitments span 33 countries.
LTE networks are now being installed or planned for commercial service in Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, The Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, UAE, USA, and Uzbekistan.
GSA expects that up to 22 LTE networks will be in service by the end of this year, and at least 45 are expected to be in service by the end of 2012. The first LTE networks entered commercial service in December 2009 in Norway and Sweden.
The report says that 30 LTE pilots, trial or studies are underway, in 15 more countries.
Governments in Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands have completed auctions of spectrum in recent weeks including 2.6GHz, which is earmarked for LTE systems. Germany has also completed Europe's first auction of 800MHz (digital dividend) spectrum in which the winning operators plan to deploy LTE systems.
The GSM Association, representing the operators, has also just appointed Dick Lynch, EVP and CTO of Verizon, the US operator, to its board, following Verizon's commitment to launch LTE services in the US in 2010.
Under Lynch’s leadership, Verizon Wireless is on track to deploy LTE commercially in 25 to 30 markets across the US this year. The number of markets is expected to double within 15 months of the initial launch, and by the end of 2013, Verizon’s entire 3G footprint, covering 285 million Americans, is expected to be covered by LTE.
WiMAX, the rival 4G standard, seems to be losing ground, with Russian operator Yota shifting its 4G allegiance from WiMAX to LTE, which it now plans to roll out in 15 cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg by the end of 2011.
Many industry watchers assumed that Yota would deploy the time-division multiplexing version of LTE, which is being developed as a way forward for networks using China's homegrown TD-SCDMA version of the 3G standard. However, Yota may have acquired the additional spectrum necessary to deploy the frequency-division multiplexing version that non-Chinese operators favour.
ABI Research practice director Philip Solis said: “If the speculation that Yota is considering FD-LTE deployment and that it will continue running its WiMAX networks in the meantime is true, this shows Yota’s intent to use LTE for fully mobile applications with international roaming. That leaves open the question of WiMAX’s feasibility for fully mobile applications.”
ABI says that WiMAX deployments are already underway in the US, Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Croatia, the Ukraine, Armenia, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
The WiMAX Forum has also just published its femtocell standard so that manufacturers can start building femtocells to the IEEE 802.16e radio interface and profiles.
“Femtocells deliver the best possible WiMAX experience - they provide exceptional indoor coverage and the optimum data experience. This standard is the key to enabling cost-effective large-scale deployments of WiMAX femtocells,” said Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum.