2009 Year in Review: LTE - European trials continue, but where are the terminals?

While operators in other regions look set to show the way with LTE deployments, Europe is still being positioned to take the lead into LTE with a compound annual growth rate of more than 50 per cent. One forecast stated that, by 2013, North America will have 7 million LTE users, Asia/Pacific 13 million and Europe 15 million.

But while European operators continue to announce LTE trials--O2 UK being the latest--the seeming lack of enthusiasm to deploy the technology, compared to operators in the US and Asia, is based more on their traumatic experiences during the early days of 3G with clunky terminals and near-prototype infrastructure.

So, the strategy for European operators seems more based on testing and trialling LTE, and waiting for others to experience the pain and grief before committing to a timescale. For Europe this probably means 2012 when the technology should be stable, the price for infrastructure will have plummeted, and terminals will have become available.

Unanswered questions
As with GSM and W-CDMA, terminals became a critical issue for the success of these technologies, and LTE looks set to experience the same path. According to one silicon developer, the first ‘real' handset to support the technology will not appear until the latter part of next year, and mass market LTE phones will not become available until 2012.

While LTE dongles and PC Cards look set to make an entrance prior to this date, operators will need to review their launch strategies based upon what terminals might appear and when.

Related stories:
LTE deployment: T-Mobile and Orange remain cautious
Europe to lead LTE user growth with 52% CAGR
Mass market LTE handsets by 2012, claims silicon developer
NSN tests LTE interop with device vendors