Report

Gigabit LTE Networks: Executive Summary – August 2021

Gigabit LTE Networks: Executive Summary – August 2021

About this report

Although the eyes of the press have been firmly fixed on 5G developments, operators have been continuing to invest in their LTE networks. They have been deploying technologies designed to improve the capabilities of their LTE networks and, in particular, to improve peak downlink (DL) throughput speeds. Operators have been focusing mainly on three technologies from the LTE-Advanced tool-kit – carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO and 256QAM modulation in the downlink – that, if used together and with sufficient aggregated bandwidth, can deliver maximum peak downlink speeds approaching, and even exceeding, 1 Gbps. Such networks are often described as ‘Gigabit LTE networks’ mirroring a term that is also used in the fixed broadband industry.

Drawing on information collected by GSA about operator deployments of LTE-Advanced features for its comprehensive database on operator networks, technologies and spectrum (NTS), this report identifies operators investing at a technology level in Gigabit LTE (defined as carrier aggregation plus 4×4 MIMO [or above] plus 256QAM DL). Note that ‘4×4 MIMO or above’ includes 4×4 MIMO and all higher-order MIMO technologies such as 8T8R MIMO and Massive MIMO.

336 operators have deployed/launched LTE-Advanced networks in 151 countries/territories.

333 operators in 141 countries/territories are investing in at least one of the three key Gigabit LTE component technologies.

118 operators in 69 countries/territories are identified as investing in all three key Gigabit LTE component technologies. Of those, 73 operators in 48 countries/territories have deployed all three technologies.

Forty-six operators (representing 13.7% of all the deployed/launched LTE-Advanced networks) can support UE Cat-16 peak theoretical DL speeds (>750 Mbps) or above.

Thirty-five of those have announced Gigabit (or very near at 998 Mbps) peak theoretical throughput, or better, in the downlink in their deployed/commercial networks.

Thirteen of them have pockets of LTE network capable of delivering the maximum DL speeds supported by Cat-18 devices, i.e. peak theoretical throughput of up to 1.2 Gbps. Five of those have announced parts of their network can deliver a maximum rate in its commercial LTE network of between 1.2 Gbps and 1.6 Gbps (Cat-19) and one has announced maximum peak DL speeds in its LTE network over just over 1.7 Gbps (Cat-20).

520 commercially available devices can support LTE speeds at Cat-16 or better.

We expect many other networks to achieve Gigabit speeds on their LTE networks, as they refarm or acquire new spectrum resources, invest in higher orders of MIMO technology and implement new carrier aggregation combinations. Operators are still investing in improving their LTE networks, even as they deploy 5G technologies.

Technology context

While there are many features in the LTE-Advanced tool-kit, the three of interest in this report are:

Carrier aggregation (CA) – the process of aggregating the bandwidths of multiple component carriers to increase bit-rate. Carriers may be in licensed or unlicensed spectrum and may be of varying bandwidths. Varying numbers of carriers may be aggregated. Currently, commercial networks typically aggregate two, three or four carriers.

4×4 MIMO –the use of multiple antennas creating four transmit and four receive radio paths (4T4R) to increase the capacity of a link. Higher-order MIMO (with greater numbers of transmit and receive radio paths) is also being used in trials and live networks, including 8T8R and Massive MIMO. In this report, we count all networks using 4×4 MIMO or higher-order versions of MIMO.

256QAM in the downlink – a modulation scheme specified in 3GPP Release 12 and increasingly used in commercial networks. It enables higher data rates by increasing the number of bits of information that can be carried per symbol (though it is more susceptible to noise and interference than lower orders of QAM).

Gigabit LTE Networks: Executive Summary – August 2021

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Gigabit LTE Networks: Executive Summary - August 2021

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Gigabit LTE Networks: Executive Summary – August 2021

About this report

Although the eyes of the press have been firmly fixed on 5G developments, operators have been continuing to invest in their LTE networks. They have been deploying technologies designed to improve the capabilities of their LTE networks and, in particular, to improve peak downlink (DL) throughput speeds. Operators have been focusing mainly on three technologies from the LTE-Advanced tool-kit – carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO and 256QAM modulation in the downlink – that, if used together and with sufficient aggregated bandwidth, can deliver maximum peak downlink speeds approaching, and even exceeding, 1 Gbps. Such networks are often described as ‘Gigabit LTE networks’ mirroring a term that is also used in the fixed broadband industry.

Drawing on information collected by GSA about operator deployments of LTE-Advanced features for its comprehensive database on operator networks, technologies and spectrum (NTS), this report identifies operators investing at a technology level in Gigabit LTE (defined as carrier aggregation plus 4×4 MIMO [or above] plus 256QAM DL). Note that ‘4×4 MIMO or above’ includes 4×4 MIMO and all higher-order MIMO technologies such as 8T8R MIMO and Massive MIMO.

336 operators have deployed/launched LTE-Advanced networks in 151 countries/territories.

333 operators in 141 countries/territories are investing in at least one of the three key Gigabit LTE component technologies.

118 operators in 69 countries/territories are identified as investing in all three key Gigabit LTE component technologies. Of those, 73 operators in 48 countries/territories have deployed all three technologies.

Forty-six operators (representing 13.7% of all the deployed/launched LTE-Advanced networks) can support UE Cat-16 peak theoretical DL speeds (>750 Mbps) or above.

Thirty-five of those have announced Gigabit (or very near at 998 Mbps) peak theoretical throughput, or better, in the downlink in their deployed/commercial networks.

Thirteen of them have pockets of LTE network capable of delivering the maximum DL speeds supported by Cat-18 devices, i.e. peak theoretical throughput of up to 1.2 Gbps. Five of those have announced parts of their network can deliver a maximum rate in its commercial LTE network of between 1.2 Gbps and 1.6 Gbps (Cat-19) and one has announced maximum peak DL speeds in its LTE network over just over 1.7 Gbps (Cat-20).

520 commercially available devices can support LTE speeds at Cat-16 or better.

We expect many other networks to achieve Gigabit speeds on their LTE networks, as they refarm or acquire new spectrum resources, invest in higher orders of MIMO technology and implement new carrier aggregation combinations. Operators are still investing in improving their LTE networks, even as they deploy 5G technologies.

Technology context

While there are many features in the LTE-Advanced tool-kit, the three of interest in this report are:

Carrier aggregation (CA) – the process of aggregating the bandwidths of multiple component carriers to increase bit-rate. Carriers may be in licensed or unlicensed spectrum and may be of varying bandwidths. Varying numbers of carriers may be aggregated. Currently, commercial networks typically aggregate two, three or four carriers.

4×4 MIMO –the use of multiple antennas creating four transmit and four receive radio paths (4T4R) to increase the capacity of a link. Higher-order MIMO (with greater numbers of transmit and receive radio paths) is also being used in trials and live networks, including 8T8R and Massive MIMO. In this report, we count all networks using 4×4 MIMO or higher-order versions of MIMO.

256QAM in the downlink – a modulation scheme specified in 3GPP Release 12 and increasingly used in commercial networks. It enables higher data rates by increasing the number of bits of information that can be carried per symbol (though it is more susceptible to noise and interference than lower orders of QAM).

Gigabit LTE Networks: Executive Summary – August 2021

https://gsacom.com

LinkedIn

Twitter

YouTube

Weibo

WeChat: GSA Express

Gigabit LTE Networks: Executive Summary - August 2021

© GSA 2021

Gigabit LTE Networks: Executive Summary – August 2021
Date: 24th Aug 2021
Type: GSA Report
Technology: LTE
Originator: GSA

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