LTE is the fastest-growing mobile network technology worldwide, 2013 will be the peak year for deployments, TDD LTE is on the rise and Huawei and Ericson dominate infrastructure contract awards, according to several recent industry reports.
More than 184 LTE networks were in service as of the end of July, with another 159 planned or in deployment. Successful LTE deployments have been achieved by various by operators including Verizon Wireless, SK Telecom, NTT DoCoMo, Everything Everywhere and Vodafone D2 (Germany), according to a report from Informa Telecoms & Media.
Huawei and Ericsson are dominating the market in terms of the allocation of infrastructure contracts. According to Informa’s calculations and data provided and validated by vendors, Huawei accounts for 40 percent of network contract awards, Ericsson has 34 percent and NSN follows with 17 percent. The other 9 percent is divided among Alcatel-Lucent, ZTE, Samsung and NEC.
“The top three vendors have illustrated significant technological expertise and support to mobile operators, with Huawei and Ericsson having attracted the largest share of contracts,” said Dimitris Mavrakis, co-author of the Informa report.
Unlike in the U.S. market, network sharing is popular in foreign countries to reduce opex and consolidate infrastructure platforms.
The Global Mobile Suppliers Association counts 200 LTE networks, a slightly higher number of commercially launched systems than Informa, including 182 networks deployed in FDD mode, nine TDD networks and nine FDD/TDD networks. In the longer term, several operators have expressed interest in converging TDD and FDD to increase network capacity, especially when existing unpaired spectrum holdings are available.
More than 50 mobile carriers worldwide have committed to TDD LTE technology, according to a report by Research and Markets, and more than 30 OEMs have commercially launched TD-LTE-compatible devices, the majority of which support both FDD and TDD.
“In October 2012, the TD-LTE ecosystem received a major boost when China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced that the entire 190 MHz of spectrum in the 2.5/2.6 GHz band will be allocated for TD-LTE deployments in China, which harmonizes its TDD spectrum with Japan and the U.S., two major LTE markets,” according to Research and Markets. “These developments could allow the TD-LTE ecosystem to reach significant economies of scale, boosting further infrastructure and device investments in TD-LTE technology.”
Although the market is going to move toward LTE-A, which includes several different updates on the existing LTE standard, most operators are just at the LTE stage, according to Darryl Schoolar, principal analyst, wireless infrastructure, Ovum.
“Some of these LTE-A announcements could be considered premature as they only are using one LTE-A feature, mainly carrier aggregation,” he said.
On Aug. 20, Ericsson announced that it has supported South Korea’s SK Telecom in expanding LTE-Advanced commercial service network to the downtown areas of 84 cities nationwide, including the entire Seoul metropolitan area and six other major cities.
On June 26, SK Telecom launched LTE-Advanced service with up to 150 Mbps speeds in the Seoul area, the downtowns of 42 cities and 103 campus towns, with a plan to deploy 32,000 LTE-Advanced base stations by the end of the year, including 300 college campuses.