On an operator selected basis, 1800MHz is the leading spectrum band of choice for LTE deployments. Thirty-five percent of commercial LTE networks are using 1800MHz spectrum – in single band mode or in combination with spectrum in other bands. Of the single-band LTE networks deployed, 38 percent are based on the use of 1800MHz spectrum. In single or multi-band mode, 2.6GHz paired spectrum follows closely behind 1800MHz, with 25.5 percent of operators choosing this band for LTE, as shown in Exhibit 1, below.
To date, the LTE networks using spectrum at 700MHz are based on the US plan for the band, which itself comprises upper and lower sub-bands and spectrum that is bifurcated across 4 bands (12, 13, 14, 17). The Exhibit represents the percentage share of different spectrum bands selected by LTE operators used in either single band mode or as part of multi-band deployments.
- When considering operators LTE spectrum choices on a regional basis, key observations include:
- Western Europe lays claim to 24.5 percent of deployed LTE networks around the world, and over 50 percent of these networks are using spectrum in more than one band. Forty percent of LTE networks in the region are using 2.6GHz spectrum in standalone or multi-band mode, while 1800MHz is used in 32 percent of networks, with 800 MHz (Band 20) deployed in 25 percent of networks.
- Twenty-one percent of live LTE networks are located in Eastern Europe spread across 21 nations. Fifty percent of these deployments are based on the use of 1800MHz spectrum, followed by a 38 percent of networks using paired 2.6GHz spectrum.
- LTE networks in both the Middle East and Africa (MEA) largely remain single band, with 1800MHz spectrum used in 62 percent of deployments in these two regions. In addition, all multi-band LTE deployments in MEA include the use of 1800MHz spectrum resources.
- Asia Pacific accounts for 16 percent of global LTE deployments. 1800MHz spectrum is the dominant LTE deployment band across the region (used in 38 percent of networks), followed by networks using 2600MHz spectrum (25 percent). The limited use of unpaired TDD spectrum for LTE in the Asia Pacific, and other regions, is set to change dramatically as a result of planned TDD deployments in the huge markets of China and India.
- Operators in North America have launched LTE networks using spectrum spanning the 700MHz, 850MHz, PCS, AWS and 2600MHz spectrum ranges. Use of 700MHz spectrum in the United States is primarily segmented by operator – AT&T (Band 17), Verizon (Band 13) and rural carriers (generally Band 12). Service providers in Canada are primarily using AWS spectrum for LTE as they await the auction of 700MHz spectrum, which is scheduled for January 2014.
- In Latin America service providers are using spectrum across the following bands: 700MHz (US plan), 1800MHz, PCS, AWS and paired spectrum in the 2600MHz band. The general lack of lower band spectrum resources is set to change as regulators across the region move to allocate 700MHz spectrum. The majority of nations in the Latin America have signed onto the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) channelization plan for the band (703-748/758-803MHz).
While the majority of the world’s LTE networks are based on single band spectrum deployments, 26 percent involve multi-band combinations. Multi-band implementations positively impact infrastructure subsystem providers that have been developing wideband and multiband amplifier and antenna technology, such as Commscope, RFS, and Comba. They also benefit companies like Qualcomm, whose RF360 solution is specifically targeted towards multi-band solutions. Multi-band LTE deployments will progressively become more commonplace as service providers augment existing networks with new spectrum resources and as multi-band radio technology innovations gather pace. As LTE proliferates, service providers, vendors and regulators alike must pay careful attention to the spectrum bands and band combinations that are used. Individual bands can no longer be treated in isolation. This is particularly the case for mobile devices which require careful design to ensure RF compatibility is maintained for the various bands that are used.