GSA: 87 Devices Now Support LTE-Advanced

There are now around 87 LTE-Advanced devices available, with operators in 20 countries having commercially launched networks to support them, the GSA finds.

The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) says these Cat 4 LTE-Advanced devices have peak downlink rates of up to 150 Mbit/s and include a mix of CPEs, personal hotspots, modules, smartphones, tablets, and dongles.

In their first phase of deployment, most of these LTE-Advanced networks only support carrier aggregation, one element of many that makes up the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 's release 10 standard. Carrier aggregation refers to the bonding of disparate bands of spectrum to increase both the capacity and speed of the network. (See: Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually).)

The GSA says that LTE-Advanced 300 Mbit/s systems, which support Cat 6 devices, will be the next step for these operators and are expected in service in mid-2014. Only two Cat 6 terminals are available today.

Samsung Corp. has been an early leader in LTE-Advanced devices, supporting the tech in its Galaxy S4 and Note 3. It plans to release more LTE-Advanced devices next year in the US, Japan, and Europe and said at its analyst day that LTE-Advanced will be a key growth driver for the company. LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) also supports the zippier network in the G2 smartphone. (See: LG's G2 Is Ready for LTE-Advanced.)

Overall, the GSA says there are 1,240 LTE-enabled user devices on the market, coming from 120 manufacturers, and built for the 222 LTE networks that have been commercially launched in 83 countries. For a snapshot of how they break down, including between FDD and TDD networks, check out the GSA's infographic below. (See: GSA: Over 1,000 LTE Devices Now Available.)

For more on LTE-Advanced deployments:

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Sarah Thomas 11/8/2013 | 6:19:20 PM
Re: CAT4 thoughput does not necessarily imply LTE-Advanced Thanks for the feedback, cmiller. I believe the GSA means there are 87 LTE-A devices with the qualifying chip, but I will double check. 
cmiller_sqns 11/8/2013 | 2:27:48 PM
CAT4 thoughput does not necessarily imply LTE-Advanced CAT4 ≠ LTE-Advanced: I think your conclusion - that all 87 CAT4 devices are LTE-Advanced - is propagating a misconception about what CAT4 performance implies.  These terms aren't interchangeable, and one does not necessarily imply the other.  It's a matter of the operator's spectrum configuration.

CAT4 simply means an LTE device is capable of peak downlink throughput of 150Mbps.  For LTE, it turns out that this speed basically requires a 20MHz wide channel, which can exist in a single RF carrier in a 3GPP Release 8 or Release 9 LTE network, or in a Release 10 (LTE-A) network using carrier aggregation (CA) to create a virtual 20MHz channel from two different and narrower RF carriers.

Not many operators have LTE spectrum with single-carriers that are 20MHz wide. Those that don't are forced to use CA (which is only available in LTE-A chipsets and networks) to offer this kind of speed.  It's also true that not many of the early round of LTE (Release 8 or 9) chipsets offered CAT4 performance in a single 20MHz channel (Sequans' LTE chips do).  Those operators lucky enough to have 20MHz wide channels in a single carrier have the option of using lower-cost non-LTE-A chipsets that provide this kind of performance.

So, while many CAT4 devices are using LTE-A and CA, there are almost certainly some that are built using non-LTE-A technology.  It is not really a proper conclusion (without digging a little deeper on each device) that these 87 CAT4 devices are all using LTE-Advanced chipsets.  CAT6 is another matter: the two CAT6 devices reported in the GSA report are defintely LTE-Advanced, as this performance level (300Mbps max downlink) was not specified until Release 10 of the 3GPP spec.
Sarah Thomas 11/7/2013 | 4:24:36 PM
99% LTE/3G The GSA also said smartphones are still the "largest LTE device category with 455 products released, representing 36% share of all LTE device types.  99% of LTE smartphones also operate on 3G networks (HSPA/HSPA+ or EV-DO or TS-SCDMA technologies)."

I wouldn't expect LTE-only smartphones anytime soon. Wonder what the 1% LTE-only smartphone is...?
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