LTE continues to gain momentum, says GSA

More than 100 operators are planning to roll out LTE or are putting the technology through trials

More mobile network operators are placing their bets on the same next-generation mobile networking technology to offer users faster connections, according to a report from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

There are now 80 firm LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network deployments in 33 countries. That is an increase of 16 network deployments since April 7, according to the GSA. There are also another 30 networks that are in the planning stages. That number has increased by six operators since April, Alan Hadden, president at the GSA, said.

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Up to 22 LTE networks will be used to offer commercial services by the end of 2010 and 45 or more networks will be launched by the end of 2012, the GSA said.

Several factors will decide when LTE is launched.

For Finnish operator Elisa, the most pressing matter is the availability of LTE terminal devices, it said last week.

Neighbouring Swedish-Finnish operator TeliaSonera is expanding its range of modems, after launching the first commercial LTE service last year with limited availability of LTE-only modems from Samsung. It will offer a dual-mode modem, which supports LTE and 3G, by the end of the month.

Radio spectrum is also needed, and recent auctions in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany are positive signs, according to Hadden. The auction in Germany is particularly interesting, he said, because it was the first to auction off so-called digital dividend spectrum from the reallocation of analog television frequencies freed up by the move to more spectrally efficient digital television transmissions.

Digital dividend spectrum is typically below 1GHz. These frequencies carry further and require less infrastructure to provide wide mobile coverage than the higher-frequency bands usually allocated to 3G networks, meaning that mobile broadband can be provided in rural areas at lower cost, according to industry organization GSM Association.

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