APT700 MHz leads the way to global LTE spectrum harmonization

While 1800 MHz is becoming prime real estate for LTE deployments, APT700 MHz digital dividend spectrum continues to gain importance as a potential global band for LTE, according to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

More than 44 percent of commercial LTE networks are now using Band 3, 1800 MHz, up from 37 percent four months ago. The GSA said 69 commercial LTE networks in 43 countries are deployed at 1800 MHz.

"With a strong supporting ecosystem already established including several smartphones, 1800 MHz is likely to remain the prime band for LTE in the foreseeable future, and a key enabler for international roaming," said the association.

The second most popular band used in commercially launched LTE networks is Band 7 (2.6 GHz) followed by Band 20 (800 MHz) and then Band 4 (AWS).

The GSA also cited the potential for 700 MHz to become a global band for LTE. It noted adoption of the APT700 MHz band plan by numerous nations across Asia Pacific and Latin America--including Mexico--paves the way for global LTE spectrum harmonization. That, in turn, would enable greater economies of scale for devices and global roaming opportunities.

The APT700 band plan for 698-806 MHz (TV channels 52–69) spectrum was created by the Asia Pacific Telecommunity, an intergovernmental organization with 38 member countries, four associate members and 130 affiliate members. Within the APT700 band plan, the FDD configuration for Band 28 has attracted the most support, said the GSA.

700 MHz spectrum is held by leading U.S. mobile operators Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T), but the U.S. band plan differs considerably from the APT700 version and is quite fragmented.

The GSA also announced that 98 operators commercially launched LTE service in the past 12 months, bringing the total number of commercial launches to 156 in 67 countries.

According to the group, 412 total operators are investing in LTE technology in 125 countries across the world. GSA predicts there will be 244 commercial LTE networks operating in 87 countries by year's end.

The GSA noted that 14 operators have launched commercial services using TD-LTE rather than the FDD flavor of LTE. Most TD-LTE networks are deployed in Band 38 at 2.6 GHz and Band 40 at 2.3 GHz.

A meeting of the 3.5 GHz industry interest group during last month's Mobile World Congress highlighted the availability and importance of this spectrum for future LTE TDD deployments, said the GSA.

In related news, ABI Research this week predicted total global LTE data traffic will increase at more than twice the rate of 3G data traffic during 2013. According to the report, LTE traffic will grow 207 percent year-over-year in 2013 compared to 99 percent for 3G data traffic. The surge will be driven in part by the maturation of LTE deployments in developed markets such as the United States.

For more:
- see this GSA release

Related articles:
Report: LTE data traffic to skyrocket 200% in 2013
T-Mobile CTO: 1755-1780 MHz is prime spectrum for LTE
Report: LTE subscribers to hit 198M in 2013, then skyrocket to 1B in 2016
Mallinson: Spectrum refarming needs to be coordinated across borders
UK's Ofcom planning for LTE and beyond at 700 MHz
Maravedis: Refarmed spectrum is both an opportunity and a threat
Latin American LTE on hold pending spectrum allocations

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