GSA maintains an extensive programme of mobile market monitoring in order to deliver regular reports about the state of development of wireless technology markets worldwide. GSA continuously publishes details and numbers of trials of, and commitments to invest in, key technologies, as well as counts of actual network deployments and commercial service launches.
In the course of its research and analysis, GSA must make a judgement about the state of adoption of each technology by any given operator. This task is made complex by operators’ inconsistent use of terminology and by marketing approaches designed to suggest that any new network or service is innovative and more advanced than those on offer from rivals. This often leads to the use of operator-specific or vendor-specific phrases to describe network deployments, where those phrases don’t align with industry standards or widely accepted definitions, or in other cases, leads to the use of the terms ‘4G’ or ‘5G’ where the network performance or characteristics do not justify the use of that term. In particular, there is a real alphabet soup of phrases now in use to describe networks that exceed LTE specifications.
To help cut through these inconsistencies and to ensure it is treating all network operators equally, GSA applies strict definitions so that it can effectively track the rate of growth of the different wireless technology markets. Sometimes this will mean applying a different categorisation to a network than the marketing terminology used by an operator itself.
This document provides the key definitions currently used by GSA. This is a living document and will evolve as markets and technologies evolve.
Any network using one or more of the following important capabilities from 3GPP Releases 10, 11, & 12 within a commercial network service.
Any network using one or more of the following important capabilities from Release 13 or Release 14 within a commercial network service. (Please note this is a reclassification from analysis undertaken prior to June 2017, which required both LTE Cat-NB1 (NB-IoT) or LTE-M/Cat-M1 and one or more of the other network features listed below. We are tracking the development of LTE Cat-NB1 and LTE-M/Cat-M1 separately.)
Any network delivering maximum download speeds of 1 Gbit/s or greater in commercial services. This definition does not include operators that have only reached those speeds in technology trials. It does not include ‘near gigabit’ speeds. A gigabit mobile network is not an LTE-Advanced Pro network unless it also meets the requirements set out for LTE-Advanced Pro, above.
A combination of the three technologies typically combined to deliver gigabit speeds in an LTE network, namely 4×4 MIMO, 256 QAM DL and carrier aggregation. Note that an operator may have deployed gigabit LTE technologies but may not have a gigabit mobile network due to lack of available spectrum
Any network meeting the 3GPP Release 15 specifications (and beyond) for non-standalone (NSA) or stand-alone (SA) 5G services. For clarity, where operators claim 5G network launches we will sometimes list these but will point out that they are not 3GPP 5G-compliant, if we are aware of it. An early example of this was Verizon’s 5G fixed wireless network based on its own Verizon 5GTF specification.
Networks are counted/classified in accordance with the category of device (UE) they can fully support, rated by DL speed, as follows: