521 operators have commercially launched LTE, LTE-Advanced or LTE-Advanced Pro networks in 170 countries, according to data recently released by GSA, the Global mobile Suppliers Association, in its latest update of the Evolution to LTE report. 74 mobile operators commercially launched 4G/LTE service in the past year. Bermuda, Gibraltar, Jamaica, Liberia, Myanmar, Samoa, and Sudan are amongst the latest countries to launch 4G/LTE.
738 operators are investing in LTE across 194 countries. This figure comprises 708 firm network deployment commitments in 188 countries (of which 521 networks have launched), and 30 pre-commitment trials in a further 6 countries.
GSA raised its forecast to 560 commercially launched LTE networks by end 2016.
Over 28% of LTE operators have commercially launched LTE-Advanced networks and supporting device ecosystems are maturing. A total of 192 LTE operators (37%) are deploying LTE-Advanced or LTE-Advanced Pro technologies in 84 countries, of which 147 operators (28%) have commercially launched super-fast LTE-Advanced or LTE-Advanced Pro wireless broadband services in 69 countries. GSA has classified 9 of the commercially launched networks as being LTE-Advanced Pro.
The commercialisation and deployment of LTE-Advanced Pro technologies including use of advanced carrier aggregation capabilities, higher order (4×4 or more) MIMO systems, advanced modulation schemes (256QAM on the downlink, 64QAM on the uplink), License Assisted Access (LAA), and other advanced features deliver capacity gains, lower latency, improvements to cell edge performance and collectively ensure Gigabit downlink speeds will be market reality in coming months.
Alan Hadden, VP, Research, GSA said, “LTE-Advanced is mainstream. Over 100 LTE-Advanced networks today are compatible with Category 6 (151-300 Mbps downlink) smartphones and other user devices. The number of Category 9 capable networks (301-450 Mbps) is significant and expanding. Category 11 systems (up to 600 Mbps) are commercially launched, leading the way to Gigabit service being introduced by year end.”
LTE-Advanced Pro technology also includes a new radio interface, the Narrowband Internet of Things, NB-IoT. The status of NB-IoT developments worldwide is covered in a separate quarterly GSA report. The most widely used spectrum for LTE network deployments continues to be 1800 MHz (3GPP band 3) which is used in 246 commercially launched networks in 110 countries to represent over 47% of LTE network deployments. The next most popular band for LTE systems is 2.6 GHz (band 7) used in 121 networks. 800 MHz (band 20) is by far the next most popular spectrum choice, being used by 119 LTE operators.
While most operators deployed LTE networks in paired spectrum using the FDD mode, the LTE TDD mode (TD-LTE) for operators with unpaired spectrum continues to develop in all regions. Currently 78 operators i.e. almost 1 in 7 of all LTE operators, have commercially launched LTE service in TDD mode in 46 countries. Band 40 (2.3 GHz) is the most widely deployed spectrum and is used in 40% of TDD (TD-LTE) networks. 23 operators have deployed both FDD and TDD modes in their networks, confirming that converged FDD and TDD LTE networks represents a growing trend amongst operators.
The VoLTE market is developing quickly in all regions. The GSA report confirms that 146 operators are investing in VoLTE deployments, trials or studies in 68 countries of which 82 operators in 43 countries commercially launched VoLTE-based HD voice service, compared to 25 that had launched commercial VoLTE service by July 2015. GSA forecasts there will be over 100 LTE operators offering VoLTE service by end 2016. In June 2016 GSA confirmed that over 400 smartphones supporting VoLTE had been announced (see the Status of the LTE Ecosystem report).
The number of operators who have commercially launched LTE service using 700 MHz spectrum arranged according to the APT700 band plan (standardised by 3GPP as band 28) more than doubled in the first 7 months of 2016. APT700 is a key coverage band for LTE with near-global market potential. 25 operators have commercially launched LTE using APT700 spectrum either as a single band or as part of a multi-band deployment. GSA confirmed in June 2016 that 372 APT700 band 28 devices comprising smartphones, tablets, CPEs and MiFis have been announced across all price points (see the Status of the LTE Ecosystem report).
The Evolution to LTE report (July 28, 2016) is exclusively researched and published by GSA and is the global industry reference on the status of the LTE market. The report is free for registered site users to download via the link on http://www.gsacom.com
A companion series of SNAPSHOT reports is also available on the GSA website, focusing on six topics and presented as short extracts from the full Evolution to LTE report. Numerous charts, maps etc. confirming the progress of mobile broadband developments are also available on the website.
For information about LTE user devices see the Status of the LTE Ecosystem report, which is free to download via the link on http://www.gsacom.com
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GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) represents GSM/EDGE/WCDMA-HSPA/HSPA+, LTE/LTEAdvanced and future 5G suppliers. GSA brings together a global industry community of telecoms professionals through its website, reports, information papers and practical activities to inform, influence, educate, explain and promote the opportunities enabled by mobile broadband systems. The GSA website www.gsacom.com has gained over 70,000 registered users for knowledge gathering and information sharing of key facts, trends and analysis, and over 27,700 connections on GSA’s social network platforms- LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.