Research undertaken by Informa indicates that, when it comes to LTE launches, eight core bands are emerging as the most popular choices for initial rollouts. In a survey of 150 operators and 50 national regulators, Informa found that these core bands are concentrated around the 700-800MHz, 1800-2100MHz and 2500-2600MHz bands. More than half of the mobile operators surveyed said they were planning to launch LTE in the 2.6GHz band initially.
Operators keen to deploy LTE have to make choices based on current spectrum availability rather than wait for new bands to be licensed or capacity to be freed up. Carriers wanting to deploy in the future have to formulate their plans against a background of uncertainty regarding spectrum availability and timelines.
Senior analyst at Informa, Julian Bright, says that, despite the almost universal commitment to LTE, “there is widespread uncertainty about the availability of spectrum and a lack of consensus when it comes to which spectrum bands will be most widely adopted for the technology.” According to Bright, the mobile industry needs to address this by identifying a set of core bands for LTE, focusing on the development of the technology where the greatest demand exists.
Spectrum in the 2.6GHz band has been licensed in only a handful of European and Asia-Pacfic countries but is, according to Informa, generally expected to be allocated before the digital dividend bands, which are subject to uncertain timescales in many cases. The research found that interest in the low-to-midrange frequencies was apparent in Germany’s spectrum auction, where some operators placed a higher value on spectrum around 800MHz than around 2.6GHz; interest in the 1800MHz band was growing, thanks in no small part to its attractive combination of cost, coverage and capacity.
Informa’s findings were released the day before European giants Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and TeliaSonera called on LTE device manufacturers to support the 1800MHz band. A recent announcement by the European Commission called on operators to make room for LTE on the band before the end of this year. The 1800MHz band was initially used for extending GSM and EDGE capacity. The European Commission has also released guidelines for ensuring that UMTS, LTE and WiMAX can co-exist on 1800MHz, paving the way for LTE roaming.