Operators' concerns from several years ago that their networks would face crushing constraints due to higher mobile data traffic were overblown, according a new study from Infonetics Research. The firm claims that HSPA+ and LTE have been the primary reasons mobile operators have been able to squeeze increasing amounts of data across limited spectrum.
"HSPA/HSPA+ and LTE improve spectral efficiency so significantly that the need for spectrum has been greatly reduced, often by at least half," Infonetics analyst Stéphane Téral said in a statement. "LTE technology is not only resistant to interference between cells but also spreads transmission efficiently over available spectrum."
Téral said that the firm's research indicates operators are increasingly looking to optimise their networks using new techniques without adding additional spectrum, a move that contradicts the mainstream belief that there is not enough spectrum.
Infonetics believes that Wi-Fi offload is helping to ease the situation, with some operators reporting that up to 75 per cent of their mobile device data traffic is using this technology.
Of interest, despite the ubiquity of HSPA and EV-DO, the study states the average mobile connection speeds remain low, below 4 Mbps, in the 16 countries surveyed. Russia has the highest average (4.1 Mbps) and peak (21 Mbps) due to the small number of 3G subscribers and low mobile usage.
Japan, South Korea and the United States are ranked as having the heaviest mobile broadband usage, and are on track to need 1,000 MHz of spectrum by 2017, Infonetics claims. Meanwhile, Indonesia has the potential to be the "new China" in terms of mobile growth opportunities, the report said.
- see this Infonetics release
Analysts: UK operators underpaid for LTE spectrum, for a variety of reasons
Report: UK LTE adoption dependent on price and performance
Analyst: UK LTE spectrum auction may have unexpected winners
Operators see Wi-Fi as a critical differentiator, but split on business models