Finland's Nokia says it has now signed contracts for the rollout of 4.5G networks with 110 service provider customers.
The update, which Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) provided at a recent press briefing in London, came after the equipment vendor claimed to have "more than 90" 4.5G deals in place at the beginning of September.
The increase in the last few weeks points to growing interest in the technology, which takes advantage of techniques such as carrier aggregation to boost the performance of mobile broadband networks.
Nokia has been vigorously promoting enhancements to the 4G standard while it continues to work on the development of 5G, which is not expected to be commercially ready until 2020.
This quarter it began shipping kit for a technology it calls 4.5G Pro and it has also been touting a 4.9G standard, which it expects to introduce in late 2017.
Samih Elhage, the president of Nokia's mobile networks business, told reporters that 4G technologies would be able to satisfy demand for higher-speed services even as 5G is being launched.
"LTE and 5G will co-exist," he said. "If you want to create a fully autonomous environment then you need 5G for the latency, but if you want to support video downloads and mundane mobile broadband services then 4.5G, 4.5G Pro and 4.9G can provide significant capabilities for that."
Nokia has previously claimed that 4.5G Pro will operate at ten times the speed of initial 4G networks by allowing service providers to combine paired, unpaired and unlicensed spectrum in an advanced form of carrier aggregation.
The forthcoming 4.9G technology will take carrier aggregation to yet another level, according to Nokia, and use a technique called beamforming to keep radio signals focused on customers. Nokia says 4.9G will increase speeds to "several gigabits per second."
The capabilities Nokia is rolling out under the 4.5G and 4.5G Pro labels map to the LTE-Advanced Pro standard that was included in the 3GPP's Release 13 earlier this year.
Scheduled for June 2017, Release 14 will be the last aimed at making improvements to 4G, and seems likely to include features that will support Nokia's launch of 4.9G, with Release 15 representing the first standardization of 5G technology sometime in 2018.
Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown says he expects to see a huge amount of publicity around LTE-Advanced Pro at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress, which will take place in Barcelona in late February.
"Over the next three to four years LTE-Advanced Pro is where the action will be in terms of money in your pocket," Brown told attendees at Light Reading's Executive Summit event last week in Rome.
Despite the growing interest in 4.5G, however, Nokia expects its network revenues to fall by around 2.2% next year as operators rein in spending on infrastructure. (See Nokia to Create Standalone Software Biz, Target New Verticals.)
Investment activity seems unlikely to pick up substantially until the arrival of 5G technology several years from now.
Hoping to compensate for the slowdown in its mainstream market, Nokia has announced plans for a major push into the enterprise sector and is targeting vertical sectors including energy, transportation, the public sector, so-called "technological extra-large enterprises" and the web-scale players. (See Nokia: A Global Network Operator for the Enterprise? and Nokia's New Software Unit to 'Redesign' Company.)
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading