LTE commitments hit 180 operators
The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) says there are now 180 operators in 70 countries deploying, trialing or evaluating LTE.
However, such impressive figures mask the fact that most carriers will stick with tests or small scale 'hotzone' roll-outs for several years.
Several cellcos are playing down the first mover advantage of early adopters like Verizon and TeliaSonera, claiming these roll-outs will generate PR profile rather than real commercial results, at least in the first year or so.
T-Mobile, as at the 3G stage, is content to enhance its current platform until it can gain the optimum pricing and spectrum position for LTE - this is seen in the US and Europe.
And Japan's KDDI said this week that it will not switch on LTE until 2012, even though NTT DoCoMo has already gone live (KDDI does have some 4G activity via its UQ Wimax joint venture).
The GSA says there are 128 firm operator commitments to deploy commercial systems in 52 countries, and a further 52 "pre-commitment" trials or pilots in an additional 18 countries. These figures include TDD and FDD modes. The number of firms investing in LTE trials or roll-outs has risen by 140% over the past year.
Already 17 operators have launched commercial services in Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Norway, Poland, Sweden, USA, and Uzbekistan. The GSA believes the figure will rise to 64 by the end of 2012.
GSA president Alan Hadden said: "LTE made excellent progress in 2010 to become the fastest developing mobile system technology ever. We expect that the introduction of LTE systems and user devices will significantly quicken in 2011."
One reason for LTE's swift progress, at least in trials, has been a high level of activity in emerging economies, which was not a feature of early 3G. Uzbekistan was the first country to gain a choice of two LTE networks, and there are several major trials in Africa.