A total of 521 operators have commercially launched LTE, LTE-Advanced or LTE-Advanced Pro networks in 170 countries, according to a recent report focused on the state of LTE network reach released by the Global mobile Suppliers Association.
In 2015, 74 mobile operators globally launched 4G LTE networks, GSA said. Bermuda, Gibraltar, Jamaica, Liberia, Myanmar, Samoa and Sudan are amongst the latest countries to launch 4G LTE technology.
The report also reveals that 738 operators are currently investing in LTE networks across 194 countries. This figure comprises 708 firm network deployment commitments in 188 countries – of which 521 networks have launched – and 30 precommitment trials in another 6 countries.
According to the GSA, active LTE network deployments will reach 560 by the end of this year.
A total of 192 telcos, which currently offer standard LTE services, are deploying LTE-A or LTE-A Pro technologies in 84 countries, of which 147 operators have commercially launched superfast LTE-A or LTE-A Pro wireless broadband services in 69 countries.
“LTE-Advanced is mainstream. Over 100 LTE-Advanced networks today are compatible with Category 6 (151-300 Mbps downlink) smartphones and other user devices. The number of Category 9 capable networks (301-450 Mbps) is significant and expanding. Category 11 systems (up to 600 Mbps) are commercially launched, leading the way to Gigabit service being introduced by year-end,” GSA Research VP Alan Hadden said.
The GSA study also showed that the 1800 MHz band continues to be the most widely used spectrum for LTE deployments. This frequency is used in 246 commercial LTE deployments in 110 countries, representing 47% of total LTE deployments. The next most popular band for LTE systems is 2.6 GHz, which is used in 121 networks. Also, the 800 MHz band is being used by 119 LTE operators.
A total of 146 operators are currently investing in Voice over LTE deployments, trials or studies in 68 countries, according to the study. GSA forecasts there will be over 100 LTE network operators offering VoLTE service by the end of this year.
Unlicensed spectrum technologies boost global indoor small cell market
In related news, a recent study by ABI Research forecasts that the global indoor small cell market will reach revenue of $1.8 billion in 2021, manly fueled by increasing support for unlicensed spectrum technologies, including LTE-License Assisted Access and Wi-Fi.
The research firm predicts support for LTE-based and Wi-Fi technologies using unlicensed spectrum within small cell equipment will expand to comprise 51% of total annual shipments by 2021 at a compound annual growth rate of 47%
“Unlicensed LTE (LTE-U) had a rough start, meeting negative and skeptic reactions to its possible conflict with Wi-Fi operations in the 5 GHz bands. But the ongoing standardization and coexistence efforts increased the support in the technology ecosystem,” said Ahmed Ali, senior analyst at ABI Research.
“The dynamic and diverse nature of indoor venues calls for an all-inclusive small cell network that intelligently adapts to different user requirements,” the analyst added. “Support for multioperation features like 3G/4G and Wi-Fi/LAA access is necessary for the enterprise market.”