LTE catches the headlines, but coverage limited - 2011 predictions

Germany will follow Scandinavia by being the first major European country to deploy widespread commercial LTE. The pace is being set by Vodafone Germany, but Deutsche Telekom and O2 Germany are conducting trials prior to launching commercial services.

Early reports from TeliaSonera, the world's first LTE commercial operator, are positive with the technology performing to specification--albeit with a low number of subscribers. An improvement to latency speeds has been noted as of particular appeal to users.

While the Scandinavian operators have deployed LTE in their large towns or cities, German operators are initially looking to use the technology to provide broadband connectivity in rural areas via 800 MHz spectrum.

The enthusiasm to deploy LTE might be high in other European countries, but the lack of spectrum availability, particularly in the U.K., seems set to considerably delay licence awards and network buildouts.

Likely outcome: LTE terminals are unlikely to progress markedly during 2011, remaining as data-centric dongles and WiFi routers. Consumer pricing for LTE will remain at a premium, declining over time as more operators launch high-speed data services--either HSPA+ or LTE--to compete.

LTE handsets will become available in Europe, but in low volumes and highly priced. Lack of handset choice and no proven LTE voice solution will delay and limit consumer uptake.

While Europe's major operators will prepare themselves for LTE, in 2011 they will focus on achieving the maximum ROI from their existing 3G networks, and in particular the promotion of HSPA+ as an interim step towards LTE.

LTE catches the headlines, but coverage limited - 2011 predictions