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Global 4G trends: 1 billion subscribers expected by 2017

The will be 915 million high speed mobile broadband (LTE) subscribers worldwide forecast for end of 2016, and the first billion will be exceeded during 2017, according to new research looking at global 4G trends.

The study, from IDATE, looked at the main trends shaping the world’s mobile markets: networks, devices and services.

By the end of 2016, IDATE’s forecast predicts more than 915 million LTE subscriptions worldwide. Asia-Pacific is expected to represent a sizeable 41.6% of the total, North America 21.6%, Africa/Middle East 7.5%, Eastern Europe 4.9% and Western Europe 15.8%.

At the LTE World Summit in Amsterdam (June, 24-26) IDATE provides its latest analyses and forecasts for the world LTE market, and insight into the 700 MHz issue.

LTE is now mainstream with major deployments in every geographical area. The TD-LTE ecosystem is still waiting for a decision from China and can anticipate seeing the first LTE Advanced networks during the second half of this year. The 700 MHz band with the APT band plan has already been allocated in countries such as Australia and Japan with intense regulatory activity expected in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America around this new frequency band.


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The 700 MHz band: A new harmonised frequency band for LTE?

With IDATE’s latest report addressing the 700MHz band issue, this question for future usage of our mobile services must be considered.

The growth of mobile broadband traffic is putting pressure on mobile networks and is driving the need for more spectrum in sub-1 GHz frequency bands for LTE and LTE-Advanced networks. Harmonisation across many geographical areas is crucial as it would enable significant economies of scale for LTE devices and would facilitate international roaming. The first Digital Dividend has already provided new spectrum for the mobile sector. Notably, the 700 MHz band in the USA and the 800 MHz band in Europe are today used for commercial LTE services.
Following the 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12), the 700 MHz now appears the most promising option for a harmonised frequency band across Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. IDATE anticipate further discussions at WRC- 15 and technical conditions have to be defined in Europe before then.

Global 4G trends:


• The Asia-Pacific region is taking the lead in this field and has already defined the ‘APT band plan’ which is likely to be adopted in Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Europe. This plan is not compatible with the US plan, which was defined before the 2008 auction and does not allow any compatibility or roaming for future LTE handsets. The 700 MHz band with the APT band plan could become a harmonised frequency band for LTE worldwide.

The 700 MHz band corresponds to the first Digital Dividend in the USA and in Asia-Pacific, whereas it could become the second Digital Dividend in the EMEA region. At WRC-12, African and Middle Eastern countries requested that the 694-790 MHz spectrum be allocated for mobile broadband services.

• Many observers insist that Europe should not make the same mistake as it did with the 800 MHz band - where the auctions took place without coordination leading to undesirable early starts in some countries with a limited range of compatible devices. The harmonisation process in Europe should be clear with precise technical parameters and a realistic roadmap taking into account the timetable of existing broadcasting services. 2020 seems to be a realistic target for the launch of LTE services in the 700 MHz band in Europe, but some countries, such as France and perhaps Germany, are already planning to organise auctions as soon as 2015 even though the spectrum will only be available at a later date.

• Public safety networks, which want to support mobile broadband services, are also starting to use parts of the 700 MHz band in the USA and the UAE have already allocated spectrum for their use earlier this year. Discussions are under way in Europe to address this question.

• In the USA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has suggested an innovative auction format, called ‘incentive auctions’. The objective is to change the use of UHF band (470-700 MHz) starting with the 600 MHz band and to enable new services on a licensed basis. The process would start with a reorganisation of the UHF band and a re-allocation for licensed mobile services, such as 3G and LTE.

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