LTE Network Technologies

Gigabit LTE networks this year, says GSA

Nine operators are already supporting LTE-Advanced Pro capabilities and will move to 1Gbps speeds within months

LTE-Advanced networks with gigabit peak speeds will be in commercial use by the end of this year, claims the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) at the publication of its latest deployment figures.

The group says that 147 operators in 69 countries have now launched some form of LTE-A, and nine of these support the latest 3GPP iterations, branded LTE-A Pro and based around the just-finalized Release 13 (Pro will also include R14 when that appears, while R15 will be the first 3GPP specifications for 5G).

“LTE-Advanced is mainstream,” said Alan Hadden, VP of research at the GSA. “The number of Category-9 capable networks (301Mbps-405Mbps) is significant and expanding. Category-11 systems (up to 600Mbps) are commercially launched, leading the way to gigabit service being introduced by year end.”

As usual, Australia’s Telstra is ahead of the field in its plan to push the boundaries of LTE performance, and back in February it committed to a 1Gbps network launch this year.

When all LTE generations are taken into account, there are 521 4G networks commercially available in 170 countries, the GSA says. The latest launches it has tracked are in areas as diverse as Bermuda, Gibraltar, Jamaica, Liberia, Myanmar, Samoa, and Sudan, showing that 4G is becoming mainstream in many emerging or small economies, at least in urban areas.

The FDD strand of the standards still dominate roll-outs, as most operators primarily hold paired spectrum, but that will change gradually as more carriers realize the potential of TDD to support high bandwidth data services and to augment their existing frequencies. Many own unpaired spectrum but hardly use it, or could acquire or access it relatively cheaply. And of course, major TDD deployments in China, Japan and the US are creating a broader ecosystem and better economics. The GSA says 78 operators – one in seven of the total – have commercial TD-LTE networks (some combined with FDD-LTE), across 46 countries.

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