Number Of Global 4G LTE Networks Reaches 360

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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GSA says 96 LTE networks launched in 2014 as operators turn attention towards LTE-A and VoLTE

There are now 360 active commercial LTE networks around the world, with operators looking towards LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) carrier aggregation and Voice over LTE (VoLTE), according to new figures from the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

The industry body says 96 new LTE networks were launched during 2014, meaning that at 124 countries now have at least one 4G service.

Eighty operators in 42 countries are investing in VoLTE deployments, studies or trials, including the UK’s Vodafone and EE which have both committed to improving the quality of voice calls on their network by using LTE.

LTE networks

O2 4GEE and Vodafone are also two of 49 operators which have launched commercial LTE-A services in 31 countries, a figure which could double in 2015 as 107 operators conduct ongoing trials of the technology.

LTE-A typically delivers speeds of up to 150Mbps by combining two frequency bands, but EE, Huawei and Qualcomm have successfully achieved speeds of 410 in LTE Cat 9 tests, while SK Telecom has launched the “world’s first” commercially available Tri-Band LTE network.

“LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation deployment was the major trend in 2014,” says Alan Hadden, President of the GSA. “Taking account of additional deployments in progress, trials and studies, GSA calculates almost 30 percent of LTE operators are currently investing in LTE-Advanced technology.”

The most widely used spectrum for LTE is the 1800MHz band, which accounts for 44 percent of all deployments, followed by the 2.6GHz band at 25 percent and the 800MHz frequencies, which are the most popular sub-1GHz airwaves and used by 20 percent of operators.

The GSA says eight operators are using 700MHz but says this is a key band that has “near-global market potential”. The body says 42 countries have allocated or identified 700MHz for 4G services, including the UK, which wants mobile data services to co-exist with Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) signals.

Later this year, the GSMA will lobby the UN-affiliated International Telecommunications Union’s World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-15) for more spectrum to be allocated to the mobile industry.

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