LTE’s Meteoric Growth Not Slowing Down

Carl Weinschenk
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LTE has found such quick acceptance in its still young life that news that a carrier is bringing it to a town or city doesn’t even rate a mention in the media anymore. LTE is the current way in which carriers expand coverage, and will be for years.

Behind the scenes, though, there is a bit of 4G drama. GigaOm reports that carriers, and the vendors that support them, are working hard to meet 4G demand. In a story that sets the stage for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, the site reports that Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent plan to unveil high-capacity base stations aimed at anticipating the expected growth of LTE demand.

Ericsson is offering the Radio System and Alcatel-Lucent the 9926 eNodeB. In addition, Nokia Networks will detail the Radio Cloud, which is still a year from formal introduction. The bottom line is that there is a need to move aggressively to support current and future subscribers. Writes Kevin Fitchard:

This might seem like overkill to you or I, but it’s an important trend because operators globally are starting to add more and more capacity to their 4G networks at an increasingly faster pace. All four of the nationwide carriers have already started cannibalizing their 2G and 3G networks to get at more 4G airwaves. Verizon and AT&T just bid big in the last federal spectrum auction. And next year’s 600 MHz spectrum incentive auction will likely get even more attention from mobile carriers.


TechWeek Europe shows how quickly LTE is growing. According to the GSMA, the number of connections will rise from 490 million to 875 million worldwide by the end of 2015. Presumably, the starting point for the increase is the beginning of the year, though that is a bit unclear. The GSMA also says that about 30 percent of mobile devices will have LTE connections and 63 percent of the world’s population will have the option of such services by 2020.

The GSMA is not the only organization closely watching LTE growth. The Ericsson Mobility Report came up with a similar figure – about 500 million -- for worldwide subscriptions at the end of 2014, according to The Telecom Lead. It said that 110 million subscriptions were added in the fourth quarter.

A good illustration of what is happening is Sprint. The blog S4GRU reports that the carrier is aggressively adding to its LTE assets:

Smartphone

The purpose of these 9,000 new sites is to expand coverage into new markets, add critical rural coverage where high roaming occurs, capture lost coverage from the shutdown of the old Nextel iDEN network, extend coverage to new suburban areas, and densify the network within existing coverage.
The details are complex, but the bottom line is that a good deal of new equipment will be deployed. It’s not all subscriber growth. It also is more use on a per-subscriber basis. LTE, as Mobidia points out, leads to the use of more data and the purchase of bigger data plans. The takeaway of all these reports is that LTE is a boon to mobile carriers – but one for which they must prepare.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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