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Nearly 500 Operators Make the 4G Pledge

Sarah Thomas
5/7/2014
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The number of mobile operators launching LTE -- or at least offering firm commitments to do so -- has reached 497 spanning 150 countries, according to the latest GSA numbers.

There are currently 288 LTE networks live in 104 countries, up slightly since the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) last updated its numbers in February. (See LTE Hits the Ton: Now Live in 100 Countries and LTE to Cover Half the Globe by 2017 – GSMA.)

The majority of these deployments -- 43% from 124 operators -- use FDD spectrum, specifically the 1800MHz band, the suppliers group says. But LTE TDD deployments are accelerating with 36 now commercially launched in 24 countries. The GSA says that one in every eight commercially launched LTE networks incorporates TDD, either solely or alongside FDD. (See Sprint: LTE TDD Speed Boost Coming Soon and China Holds Key to LTE TDD.)

The GSA says there were 240 million LTE subscribers worldwide at the end of the first quarter. That compares to the 7 billion mobile users that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) says will be active by the end of 2014 in a separate report issued this week. That said, the ITU found that mobile growth rates have reached their lowest-ever level at 2.6% globally, suggesting we are nearly saturated with mobility -- at least as far as phones go. (See Is This the Real M2M?)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/8/2014 | 4:47:37 AM
Re: Network evolutions
Thank you for this article, it has made me know how surprisingly the network technology is speedily evolving. Following the current spectrum used in the commercially lunched LTE networks, I am left wondering how it is growing faster in terms of users. I wonder what we will have in the future, may be it is VoLTE since the number of LTE subscribers is rapidly growing which I think will soon make it a gone story.
bobmachin
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bobmachin,
User Rank: Moderator
5/8/2014 | 3:58:03 AM
Far from saturated
That 3bn is surely the most significant figure - there's no ceiling on the number of SIMs, connections and so forth that we might see, as connected devices roll out, but there is a ceiling on how many people could be connected worldwide - about 6bn over the age of seven - and we're a long way from reaching that. And for many of those still unconnected, mobile connection means first personal internet access, so the impact in social and economic terms will be enormous.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/7/2014 | 1:16:50 PM
Re: Saturated flat
True, you could count me as 11, but that's a personal problem. The main number the ITU was touting and most focused on was the 3 billion Internet connections now globally and the importance of that in the developing world. A lot of those Internet users are also mobile only.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/7/2014 | 1:07:15 PM
Re: Saturated flat
Depending on who is doing the counting, the number can be significantly inflated by counting SIM cards, for instance. Our former colleagues at Pyramid Research routinely report mobile penetration rates over 100% even in developing markets, for instance. Even so, focusing on overall growth rates for mobile is not relevant at this point, so looking at LTE, LTE-A, etc. is a metric worth tracking.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/7/2014 | 12:58:28 PM
Re: Saturated flat
That is pretty crazy. The ITU tracked "mobile-cellular" connections. I will have to follow up to see what all they're counting in that category, but I believe it's just traditional handsets. Most of the growth is coming from the developing world too.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/7/2014 | 12:40:31 PM
Saturated flat
The fact that there are supposedly 7 billion "mobile users" and the global population is now 7.1 billion suggests a few things, one of which is that, yes, mobile growth rates are pretty much done for. Unless we can get other life forms to sign on for service. Maybe we need to start a campaign for IoA -- Internet of Animals. Or Birds.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/7/2014 | 8:29:53 AM
Network evolutions
Soon the LTE list will be old news, and we'll be tracking LTE-Advanced or 5G roll outs...I think VoLTE is the feature we'll be looking for next though.
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