GSA confirms 113 commercial LTE networks are launched; over 500 user devices announced

360 operators are investing in LTE, a figure which is 45% more than a year ago

November 5, 2012

360 operators are investing in LTE, a figure which is 45% more than a year ago, according to the GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) in an update to its Evolution to LTE report released on November 2, 2012.

The report confirms that 113 operators have launched commercial LTE networks in 51 countries.

A further 195 commercial network deployments are in progress. GSA forecasts that 209 networks will be commercially launched in 75 countries by the end of 2013.

A total of 308 operators are firmly committed to deploy commercial LTE networks in 94 countries, including those who have launched services. A further 52 operators in 11 more countries are at a pre-commitment stage, engaged in LTE technology trials, tests or studies, etc. Many of them are expected to also decide to introduce LTE services.

77 operators have launched commercial LTE services in the past 12 months.

Summary of commercial LTE network launches annually:

2009 = 2
2010 = 15 (year-end cumulative total = 17)
2011 = 30 (year-end cumulative total = 47)
2012 to November 2 = 66 (cumulative total to date = 113)
GSA end 2012 outlook = 166 commercial LTE networks in 70 countries
GSA end 2013 outlook = 209 commercial LTE networks in 75 countries

LTE is the fastest developing mobile system technology ever and entering a new phase as a mainstream technology by end of 2012.

Alan Hadden, President of the GSA, said: “Regulators are responding to the need for more spectrum for mobile broadband services in all regions. Spectrum auctions were completed in recent months in Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Lithuania, Romania, and Russia and further auctions will be held over the next few months. The move towards technology-neutral licensing policy, e.g. refarming of the 1800 MHz band provides a further significant boost to spectrum supply for LTE deployments.”

The benefits from deploying LTE networks in re-farmed spectrum are increasingly recognized by regulators and the industry, emphasizing the flexibility and growing importance of 1800 MHz as a prime band for mobile broadband services delivery. LTE1800 (LTE technology deployed in 1800 MHz spectrum) is launched on 36% of all commercial LTE networks. Forty-one operators have commercially launched LTE1800 either as a single band system, or as part of a multi-band deployment, and commercial LTE1800 services are now available in 29 countries.

Eleven operators have launched commercial service using the LTE TDD mode in unpaired spectrum. The LTE standard was specified by 3GPP with an FDD mode for use in paired spectrum, and a TDD mode being the optimal solution for use in unpaired spectrum. FDD and TDD modes are fully complementary. TDD shares most of the FDD design and standards and uses a common core network, and industry commitment is strong. Some operators have commercially launched LTE service using both FDD and TDD.

According to its related research, GSA also confirms that 521 LTE user devices (including operator and frequency variants) have been announced by 79 manufacturers (November 2, 2012), representing 164% increase compared to the number of products reported by GSA one year ago (197 devices at that time).

The Evolution to LTE report was researched and published by GSA and provides a concise update of the business drivers, objectives and targets for LTE – Long Term Evolution and the evolved packet system, including network operator commitments, deployments, launches, trials, the growing eco-system including device availability, spectrum requirements and developments, Voice over LTE developments, standardization activities including LTE-Advanced, and more. The report is available as a free download to registered site users at www.gsacom.com/gsm_3g/info_papers