In 2012, Asia-Pacific region has reached a capital expenditure in the mobile sector similar to Europe and North America according to a report from ABI Research.
In this reports, Jake Saunders, vice president of forecasting at ABI Research, said 62 percent of the mobile capital expenditure will be invested in radio access network (RAN) deployment while EPC (Evolved Packet Core) and gateway upgrades to the core network will make up 9 percent of spending. Another key
area which operators are looking at is improving in-building wireless coverage into dense urban centers at 5.7 percent of mobile capital spending.
One of the most striking illustration of the gap that was bridged in the region is the investment in 4G networks. 63% of Asia’s carriers have LTE rolled out, are conducting trials, or have announced plans. Out of 110 networks, 10 operators (9%) have commercial 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks up and running. Another 58 (53%) either have specific plans to roll out LTE or are conducting trials.
As an example, the research company highlighted several countries for which spending on LTE technology is following this trend:
In China, despite the absence of 4G licenses, China Mobile has already started investing in 4G facilities. The 655 million subscriber operator plans to ramp up its TD-LTE base station count to over 20,000 TD-LTE base stations by December and 200,000 by 2013.
The report noted that investment in telecom equipment in India also extends to 2G and 3G cell sites as the operator Idea Cellular has continued to roll out 2,270 2G cell sites and 1,176 3G cell sites in 2011.
In Southeast Asia, commercial networks were already up and running in Malaysia where WiMax is preferred over LTE, Singapore and the Philippines, it said.
In this context, Japan’s biggest carrier NTT Docomo announced it reached 2 million subscribers on its LTE service Xi, with a growth rate quadrupled between the first and second million. This demonstrates that there is a real demand from consumers for such a service and justifies the important investments observed by ABI Research.
After many month of confusion marked by the appearance of network services marketed as 4G by operators while they technically weren’t, the International Telecommunication Union admitted that the term 4G could be used for these technologies.
During the World Radiocommunication Seminar 2010 (WRS-10) held in Geneva, the ITU declared that “As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as “4G”, although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed.”
This means that “evolved 3G technologies” like HSPA+ and WiMax offering a notable improvement on currently available 3G technologies can be labeled as 4G even if they don’t meet the requirements of IMT Advanced specifications.
While International Organizations like ITU, manufacturers and network operators seem to put more effort on standardization and collaboration, this episode shows that there is still a long way to go before customers can find their way in the jungle of contradictory designations.
The need for faster and sturdier mobile data networks push carriers around the world to accelerate their deployment and trials of 4G LTE Technology.
In the United States, Clearwire Corporation is announcing the start of trials expected to yield unmatched wireless speeds of 20-70 Mbps in “real-life” situation., significantly faster than the 5-12 Mbps expected from other local operators.
Meanwhile, a Samsung Executive declared last week that MetroPCS Communications Inc. will be the first US carrier to offer commercially 4G LTE services in the country. While Verizon, the nation’s biggest wireless carrier, plans to launch their own Long Term Evolution network by the end of the year, MetroPCS is expected to start its services no later than next month.
Europe is not late either. Sweden is leading the race, thanks to TeliaSonera who is already launching LTE services in a second major city in the country after Stockholm. They declare planning to rollout the service in 25 cities by the end of the year. Erik Hallberg, President of Mobility Services at TeliaSonera, revealed that the company’s rollout plan includes augmenting the 2600MHz LTE network with 800MHz frequencies, which it expects to receive via future bandwidth auctions.
LTE and WiMAX are the main pathways to 4G that MNOs have to pick between, and on which they can build their data handling capacities. While WiMAX has enjoyed a first mover advantage and a clear head-start, LTE is a natural progression for MNOs operating on GSM/UMTS networks, and that it offers the ability to lower the cost of delivering data services. For this reason, many believe that there will be a surge in the deployment of LTE networks in the coming years.