LTE still relevant despite a burgeoning 5G and IoT landscape

Michael Carroll, FierceWireless:EuropeLong Term Evolution (LTE) doesn't seem to have lasted very long when you consider the prominence of news regarding the next generation of technologies including Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G.

Mention either of those latter technologies, for example, and you are sure to generate buzz and excitement as the industry continues a trend of always looking at the future and developing the 'next big thing' that arguably began the moment the first announcements of 3G deployments were announced.

At that time, operators were barely getting around to deploying 3G infrastructure before talk of LTE began.

The same is true in today's mobile market: operators that are still in the throes of rolling out LTE and subsequent variants of that technology including voice over LTE (VoLTE), LTE-Advanced, and LTE-Advanced Pro are increasingly being quizzed on their plans for 5G, and pushed towards initial launches of that technology from 2020 onwards.

Recent research from IHS Technology highlights that the deployment of LTE technologies is still at the stage of gaining traction. The company stated that 23 VoLTE networks launched globally in the opening four months of 2016, and predicted that the number of VoLTE users will grow from an expected 310 million in 2016 to 1 billion in 2020 -- the year the first 5G networks are scheduled to go live.

The Global Mobile suppliers Association (GSA) figures bear out the fact that LTE is beginning to mature. The association stated that LTE subscription growth in the year to end-March was almost four times higher than that of 3G/HSPA, with some 645 million LTE subscriptions added during the period compared to 48 million for 3G/HSPA.

However, Ovum recently forecast that commercial 5G networks will be available in 20 markets globally by 2021, just one year after those initial launches in 2020. The research company tipped 5G subscriber numbers to hit 24 million in the first 12 months the technology is available.

In the context of the growing attention on 5G and IoT and those analyst predictions, FierceWireless:Europe asked the CEOs, CTOs, and senior executives from leading operators across the region one simple question: is it too soon to stop talking about LTE?

Find out what executives at A1 (Telekom Austria), Cyta, Deutsche Telekom, EE, Orange, Proximus, Swisscom, Telenor Group, and Wind said in our latest special report -- MJC