VoLTE deployments set to double next year

The introduction of VoLTE is accelerating with 21% of operators currently investing in deployments, and according to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) the figure is set to double next year. So far a total of 10, of which seven this year, commercial VoLTE-enabled HD voice services have been launched, and the GSA is expecting eight more by the end of 2014.

The proportion of 21% of carriers investing in VoLTE translates to 71 in total across 36 countries. This data is revealed alongside the latest updates on the GSA report ‘Evolution to LTE’. “The pace of introduction [of VoLTE] is accelerating and several more launches are imminent,” said Alan Hadden, President of the GSA. “We have seen a significant uptake in deployments of VoLTE-enabled HD voice services and LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation systems, and these are the major industry trends worldwide. The LTE Broadcast feature is also gaining industry traction with trials and studies progressing in all regions.”

LTE Network deployments also continue to increase with 65 so far this year. However, the GSA expects the number of launches to fall short of last year’s total:  “a total of 119 LTE networks launched in 2013. I don’t see quite that number this year, GSA is forecasting at least 83 to reach our estimated total of 350 plus by year end, though it could be higher as some operators may bring forward their planned investments,” said Hadden.

LTE network coverage is increasing worldwide with currently 112 countries covered, and the introduction of sub- 1GHz spectrum, especially 800MHz, is improving indoor connectivity in Europe. Similarly, the rollout of APT700 band in Asia, set to hit Latin America next and then Europe, as well as the mass-scale LTE network investments underway in China speak for the advances in the evolution to LTE.

On the subscriber side analyst firm Ovum reports that global LTE mobile broadband subscriptions reached 250 million by Q1 2014. While Korea has the highest LTE penetration at 47% of population, the US market holds the largest share of subscriptions, with Verizon Wireless and AT&T alone accounting for 35% of the global total. “The increased availability and affordability of LTE-capable devices is a major growth driver,” said Thecla Mbongue, Ovum Senior Analyst. “However, deployments and usage are still at an early stage globally, except for North America, where LTE represented over one-third of mobile broadband usage in Q1 2014.”

According to Ovum, a total of 96 LTE networks are in use in Europe, and the UK leads Europe in the number of LTE subscriptions with over six million. The Asia Pacific region, including 16 countries, reached 34 LTE deployments by Q1 2014 with 100 million subscriptions, the Middle East region had 17 deployments and 3 million subscriptions, and Africa saw 22 deployments across 12 countries with just 1.6 million subscribers. “In emerging markets, where prepaid is dominant and handset subsidies less frequent, LTE take-up is slow as coverage is limited and operators prioritize the high-end and business segments,” said Mbongue.

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