LTE activity in Asia: more than you think

LTE activity in Asia: more than you think

Dianne Northfield and Phil Marshall
Wireless Asia

Hong Kong and Japan were the first and most high-profile LTE launches in Asia, but they're far from the only markets with active LTE plans

Service providers and regulators across Asia Pacific are raising above the spectrum availability challenges that have dogged LTE adoption in the region. In 2010, global LTE trial activity gained significant traction. Excluding trials conducted by the 18 operators that have now launched commercial services, Tolaga Research has identified 123 active and completed LTE trials globally, spanning 65 nations. Thirty six of these trials were recorded in the Asia Pacific region.

In November 2010, Hong Kong's CSL became the first operator in the region to launch commercial LTE services. This deployment is also a world first with the operator launching a dual mode UMTS/LTE network supplied by ZTE using spectrum in the 1800, 2100 and 2500 MHz bands, with Samsung USB wireless modems. 

In Japan, LTE is being targeted towards sophisticated mobile broadband market offers, initially to serve dongle-connected PCs and subsequently smartphone devices. NTT DoCoMo is aggressive in its commercialization of LTE, albeit with limited initial spectrum resources. DoCoMo launched its network on December 24, 2010, using PCS spectrum at 1.8/1.9GHz, with plans to use 1.5 GHz spectrum in 2012. 

Both Softbank and KDDI currently plan to commercialize LTE in 2011. Softbank also plans to trial TDD-LTE using spectrum in the 2500 MHz band; spectrum which it acquired from Willcom in March 2010. As EMobile continues to rollout its 3G network, it is positioning itself for an LTE push in the near future by deploying network infrastructure that can be easily upgraded to LTE. 

To address scarce radio spectrum availability, LTE implementations in Japan will use 850, 1500, 1700 MHz and PCS bands, which have been availed through extensive re-banding initiatives.

In South Korea, both KT and LG are trialing and will be capable of commercializing LTE after July 2011, in the newly reallocated 900 MHz and 850 MHz bands. SK Telecom is trialing LTE using its existing 2100 MHz spectrum with plans to also launch commercial services in 2011. 

China Mobile has partnered with all the major infrastructure vendors and players like Qualcomm to pioneer TDD-LTE with its extensive holdings in the 2300 and 2600 MHz spectrum bands. China Mobile's efforts have had a huge impact on the global sentiment for TDD-LTE. Globally, we expect dual mode TDD/FDD LTE devices to become an industry norm after 2012.

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