422 operators have commercially launched 4G LTE in 143 countries, according to the latest data released by GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association).
106 operators commercially launched LTE service in the past year. 677 operators are investing in 4G LTE across 181 countries. This comprises 638 firm network deployment commitments in 176 countries (of which 422 networks have launched), and 39 pre-commitments trials in a further 5 countries.
LTE-Advanced deployments have taken hold in all markets around the world, GSA said. Now over 30% of operators are investing in LTE-Advanced system deployments. 88 operators, i.e. over 20% of all LTE operators, have commercially launched LTE-Advanced service in 45 countries. 15 LTE-Advanced networks support Category 4 devices (above 100Mbps up to 150Mbps peak downlink speed) while 73 networks (83%) support Category 6 devices (above 150Mbps up to 300Mbps).
Several operators are trialling LTE-Advanced technology capable of supporting Category 9 (above 300Mbps up to 450Mbps) devices and beyond.
The most widely used spectrum for 4G LTE network deployments continues to be 1800MHz (3GPP band 3). LTE1800 is now used in 187 commercially launched networks in 89 countries representing over 44% of LTE network deployments. The next most popular contiguous band for LTE systems is 2.6GHz (band 7) being deployed in 100 networks. In Malaysia, Celcom Axiata, Maxis and Digi have deployed 4G LTE networks in the 2.6Ghz and 1800Mhz bands. 800MHz (band 20) is by far the next most popular spectrum choice, used by 91 i.e. more than 1 in 5 LTE operators.
While most operators (90%) deployed 4G LTE networks in paired spectrum using the FDD mode, the LTE TDD mode (TD-LTE) for operators with unpaired spectrum continues to develop in all regions. Currently 59 operators, which is almost 1 in 7 of all LTE operators, have commercially launched LTE service using the TDD mode in 35 countries. Band 40 (2.3 GHz) is the most widely deployed spectrum. 17 operators have deployed both FDD and TDD modes in their networks. Converged FDD and TDD LTE networks is gaining traction amongst many operators, GSA said.
11 operators have commercially launched LTE using APT700 (700 MHz) band 28 FDD spectrum. 42 countries have allocated, committed to or recommend APT700 band 28 spectrum for LTE deployments, in markets approaching 4 billion people. 139 APT700 (band 28) user devices comprising smartphones, tablets, CPEs and MiFi hotspots have been announced.
The VoLTE market also continues to advance. The report confirms that 103 operators are investing in VoLTE deployments, trials or studies in 49 countries from which 25 operators in 16 countries have commercially launched VoLTE-based HD voice service, compared to just 3 launched in March 2014. Many more launches are anticipated in 2015. GSA announced last month that 219 VoLTE-capable devices (including carrier and frequency variants) including 198 smartphones have been announced.[Download PDF]– GSA: The Evolution to LTE report (July 21, 2015)