318 mobile operators have commercially launched 4G LTE networks and service in 111 countries, according to data released by GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) in its latest Evolution to LTE report.
51 LTE networks have launched so far in 2014. The total number of commercial LTE networks is expected to be more than 350 by the end of this year. GSA said that Israel, Madagascar and the Northern Mariana Islands are amongst the latest nations to access commercial LTE mobile broadband service for the first time.
The most widely used spectrum in LTE networks is 1800 MHz (band 3). LTE1800 is commercially launched in 70 countries by 144 operators, i.e. in over 45% of LTE networks, and is supported by the largest user devices ecosystem with 769 products or over 40% of the LTE devices available in the market today.
The next most popular contiguous band for LTE deployments is 2.6 GHz (band 7), which is used in 26.4% of the commercial mobile networks.
800 MHz (band 20) gained share as the third most popular contiguous spectrum band and the most popular sub 1 GHz coverage choice for LTE, being deployed in 55 commercially launched networks across 33 countries. 800 MHz band 20 also has a mature devices ecosystem, represented by 467 products launched in the market.
Alan Hadden, President of GSA, said: “Using sub 1 GHz spectrum including the 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands is fundamental for rural and wide area LTE coverage, and in many cases enhances the experience when using mobile broadband services indoors.”
39 LTE TDD networks are commercially launched in 26 countries, meaning that around 1 in every 8 commercially launched LTE networks incorporate the TDD mode (sometimes referred to as TD-LTE). 26 operators have launched LTE service using only the TDD mode, and 13 operators have deployed both TDD and FDD modes together in their networks. The vast majority of the LTE standard is identical for both FDD and TDD modes. Each mode has similar performance and benefits equivalently from economies of scale and evolution of the LTE standard.
Other key highlights from the latest GSA Evolution to LTE report:
- 66 operators in 35 countries are investing in VoLTE studies, trials or deployments, including 10 operators in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the USA who have commercially launched HD voice service using VoLTE. GSA recently confirmed 92 models of smartphones (including carrier and frequency variants) support VoLTE.
- LTE networks capable of supporting 150 Mbps peak downlink (for Category 4 user devices) are commercially launched in at least 36 countries
- The rapidly expanding number of LTE roaming agreements
- 69 operators, i.e. over 21%, are deploying LTE-Advanced technologies, 16 operators have launched carrier aggregation, including 4 operators whose networks support 300 Mbps Category 6 user devices
- 6 operators have commercially launched LTE services using APT700 (700 MHz) spectrum, all of them using the internationally harmonized FDD band plan configuration known as 3GPP band 28. APT700 is a key coverage band for LTE. 33 APT700 (band 28) user devices comprising smartphones, tablets, CPEs and MiFi hotspots have been launched in the market by 11 manufacturers
- More operators are investigating the potential of LTE Broadcast enabled by eMBMS technology to efficiently deliver multimedia content one-to-many, especially video. Several significant new trials have been announced.
GSA estimates that the total number of LTE subscriptions is rapidly approaching the 300 million milestone. There were 245.4 million LTE subscriptions as of March 31, 2014.