4G LTE is a global success, connecting over 1 in 4 mobile users worldwide and is the fastest developing mobile system technology ever according to GSA, the Global mobile Suppliers Association.
Based on its latest report, “Evolution from LTE to 5G”, by the end of June 2017, there were:
- 782 operators investing in LTE in 200 countries
- 601 commercially launched LTE or LTE-Advanced networks in 192 countries, including 98 LTE-TDD (TD-LTE) launched in 56 countries
- 109 commercial VoLTE networks in 57 countries, and 170 operators investing in VoLTE in 75 countries
- 197 launched networks are LTE-Advanced, in 96 countries
- GSA forecasts c. 652 commercially launched LTE networks by end-2017
- 6 NB-IoT and 2 LTE-M/Cat-M1 networks are commercially launched, with 55 NB-IoT and 16 LTE-M/Cat-M1 networks planned or being trialled
- 22 operators, at least, have now made public commitments to deployment of pre-standards ‘5G’ or standards-based 5G networks in 16 countries.
GSA said LTE on 2.6 GHz (band 7) is the capacity band in most regions. 1800 MHz (band 3) is the mainstream choice for LTE in the majority of regions. Some 280 operators have launched LTE1800 systems in 119 countries including Malaysia. 700 MHz (bands 12, 13, 14 and 17) and 800 MHz (band 20 and regional variations) are firmly established as the main LTE bands for extended coverage and deepest building penetration.
As for 5G technology, trials were announced during the second quarter of 2017 by Turkcell, Telekom Romania, Sri Lanka Telecom, Korea Telekom, Batelco, Celcom Axiata, Telus, Elisa, Swisscom and DNA. Nine other operators that had already begun trialling 5G technologies announced further trials during the quarter.
Operators continue to provide clarity about their intentions in terms of launch timetables for 5G, or at least pre-standards 5G. Recent announcements include:
- MTS now expects to have a 5G network in Moscow at 2018 Football World Cup; it had previously indicated 2020 as a target launch date
- SK Telecom plans to launch a pre-5G network by the end of 2017, and a 5G network by 2020
- Telefonica’s group CTO said at MWC Shanghai that the UK is likely to be the first market to receive 5G services from the operator, followed by Germany and Spain.