Global mobile service provider investment in fourth generation Long Term Evolution networks will increase in 2014, says Caroline Gabriel, Maravedis (News - Alert)-Rethink research director.
Overall mobile network capital investment will recover in 2014 after a stagnant period when LTE investment was slowed by recession, limited availability of commercial 4G spectrum and possibly deliberate operator decisions to proceed cautiously on LTE (News - Alert) deployment.
As you would expect, mobile network element costs also are falling. “2014 will be tough on the equipment side,” says Gabriel. In addition to the falling prices, increased use of Wi-Fi will blunt some of the necessity for additional capacity that LTE represents.
As a result, overall capex spend on the access network will grow by 10 percent compared to 2013, but the bulk of that will be in network software, not hardware, Gabriel predicts.
Carrier Wi-Fi and access points to support indoor locations also will characterize 2014 mobile network trends. At least some carriers will start to deploy multi-mode access points featuring both mobile and Wi-Fi access.
Such deployments will represent about 10 percent of small cell deployments in 2014, rising to 75 percent by 2018, Gabriel predicts.
Metrocell growth will be driven by indoor and enterprise coverage in most cases.
LTE-Advanced deployments will be significant. Carriers have rolled out LTE more quickly than was forecasted a few years ago, Gabriel says. While LTE represents a conventional capacity, coverage, data rate upgrade, LTE-A is expected to enable “radical new services and support a new network architecture,” Gabriel says.
Carrier aggregation will be important as well, as service providers combine spectrum refarmed from older networks, adding it to new LTE frequencies.
Maravedis-Rethink forecasts find that 13 percent of new LTE sites will support multi-band carrier aggregation capability in 2014, rising to 82 percent by 2018.
Edited by Cassandra Tucker