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May 24, 2012

60 Percent of Operators Ready to Deploy LTE, But Only 18 Percent of Smartphones

By the end of 2013, 60 percent of global operators will have launched 4G networks. But while some tablets have LTE capability, only 18 percent of smartphones can take advantage of the speed of the LTE network.

“While the outlook for LTE network rollouts is extremely positive, the industry as a whole needs to resolve key challenges that are barriers to uptake,” said Paul Lambert, senior analyst for Informa Telecoms & Media, which conducted the LTE survey.

“These [obstacles],” he continued, “include fragmentation arising from the proliferation of spectrum bands used for LTE worldwide, the provision of voice over LTE, the availability of smartphones and LTE roaming.”

In addition to the limited number of smartphones that can take advantage of LTE, regional fragmentation of LTE standards makes deployment and use of the network problematic. Most LTE rollouts, for instance, are in the 2,600 MHz band, but North America and Asia are deploying LTE in their own bands. While some of Europe is using the 2,600 MHz frequency band, others are exploring LTE at 800 MHz.

Fragmentation also exists between frequency division duplexing and time division duplexing.

Duplexing allows data to travel in both directions on a network. FDD applies two channels – one to transmit and one to receive data. TDD uses one channel but assigns different time slots to transmission and reception of data. To operate over both duplexes, mobile devices will have to be equipped with the ability to switch between FDD and TDD modes.

LTE uptake will increase considerably as more smartphones become available. Particularly for services like video, which are data-intensive, LTE delivers increased upload and download speeds, as well as faster response times.

Of the operators surveyed by Informa, 35 percent want to add LTE capability to their networks to add additional streams of revenue, although Verizon and AT&T haven’t been able to extract a significant premium from users for providing LTE access.

“Most of the operators that have been successful in signing up LTE subscribers have decided not to charge a premium for 4G access, but instead are bundling it into existing data plans,” Lambert explained. “When operators have done this, and effectively communicated the benefits 4G offers, market reaction has been very positive.”

One-third of operators want to deploy LTE to brand themselves as technology leaders, while 23 percent are focused on increasing their capacity to deliver mobile broadband services.

The entire Informa survey, entitled the “Successful LTE Strategies” report, is available for order online.

Edited by Braden Becker

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