Hot on the heels of its recent HD voice update, the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) has published its latest statistics on worldwide LTE (News - Alert) deployments. A whopping 292 operators in 93 countries have made "firm commitments" to deploy commercial LTE networks, says GSA. Another 55 operators in 11 more countries are in a LTE pre-commitment stage, engaged in such things as technology trials, test or studies.
GSA's crystal ball (well, forecast) says there will be 152 LTE networks operating in 65 countries by the end of this year. Already, 96 operators have launched commercial LTE services in 46 countries. There are 11 LTE TDD systems which have been launched in Australia, Brazil, India, Japan, Oman, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and the UK.
Deployments of LTE in re-farmed (maybe we should be green and call it "recycled"?) spectrum originally used for 2G networks continue to accelerate with deployments in 1800 MHz spectrum now at about one-third of all network launches to date.
Most LTE deployments are around pared spectrum, or FDD. But the LTE TDD (Time Division Duplex) unpaired spectrum mode is gaining ground, due in part to it providing an upgrade path for the TD-SCDMA standard widely deployed in China. Clearwire (News - Alert) has chosen TDD for its 2013 LTE rollout and expects to initially offer service to 31 U.S. cities, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.
There's a lot to love about LTE. It is the first true, designed from the ground up, all-IP wireless network supporting voice and data. High speed design targets for first LTE networks include a peak downstream data rate of "at least 100 Mbps" within a 20 MHz chunk of spectrum and uplink peak rates of 50 Mbps in a 20 MHz allocation. In actual use, you won't get that sort of speed out of the box, but it will be much faster than existing 3G CDMA and HSPA-type networks.
LTE planners have a roadmap to increase peak speeds. Category 4 devices will be able to handle 150 Mbps downstream and are expected to be available by the end of this year. LTE-Advanced systems are in the process of being deployed, but lab tests of 1 Gbps downstream and 200 Mbps on the upstream have been demonstrated. SK Telecom (News - Alert) plans to deploy LTE-Advanced in 2013, with other carriers talking about a similar timeframe, including AT&T, Clearwire, Dish Network and Sprint.
Voice over LTE (VoLTE) has been slow in coming due to carrier concerns about the ability to deliver high-quality service over an IP network. LG U Plus, MetroPCS and SK Telecom all launched VoLTE service in August 2012, with LG and SK both rolling out HD voice using the AMR-WB codec as a standard feature of VoLTE.
A number of LTE carriers have committed to support HD voice according to the report, including nearly all of the U.S. carriers rolling out VoLTE in 2013, including AT&T (News - Alert), Clearwire, Sprint and Verizon. As VoLTE picks up steam, so will HD voice usage around the globe.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman