LTE activity in Asia: more than you think
LTE trials are active in Malaysia and Singapore; however spectrum allocations remain a challenge. In Malaysia, the regulator recently issued nine licenses in the 2.6 GHz band with specific spectrum assignments pending, and in Singapore the regulator is attempting to reclaim 2.3 and 2.6 GHz licenses that were previously issued for BWA (aka Wimax) service.
In 2010, Celcom Malaysia, Maxis Communications and Telecom Malaysia were all involved in LTE trials, as were M1, SingTel and StarHub in Singapore. Commercial LTE launches in these nations are envisaged in the 2012 to 2013 timeframe, as is also the case in Australia, where Telstra, Optus, 3 Australia and Vividwireless are all trialing LTE across a range of spectrum bands - 850, 1800, 2100 and 2300 MHz, and at 2500 MHz using experimental licenses prior to licensing in this band, which is expected in 2013.
The lesser known LTE stories
Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom launched an LTE trial with Ericsson and NSN in Q2 2010 using 2500 MHz FDD spectrum. In Q4 2010, it is trailing LTE at both 700 and 2500 MHz. FarEasTone is trailing TDD-LTE with China Mobile and VIBO is in the process of upgrading to HSPA+.
LTE deployments are facilitated by technology neutral Wimax licenses issued to four holders of 2500 MHz licenses, although regulatory review is required for the technology-specific Wimax licenses of operators FITEL and VeeTIME. Taiwan's regulator is supportive of releasing digital dividend spectrum for the provision of mobile broadband services, although it is unlikely to be available for commercial use until 2016 to 2017.
Trial licenses have been awarded in Vietnam in the 2.3 and 2.5 GHz bands for a period of one year, and are expected to be auctioned in the Q4 2012 timeframe. Both VNPT and VDC have launched LTE trials and other operators are set to follow suit in the short-term. Temporary licenses have also been granted to Viettel, FPT Telecom (EVN), CMC Group, Saigon Postel and VTC.
Reliance/Infotel and Qualcomm have launched TD-LTE trials in India using 2.3 GHz spectrum. Both activities allude to the potential launch of LTE services in India in 2011. Other players in the region are also considering the TD-LTE path. Malaysia's Asiaspace, which holds spectrum at 2300 MHz, is also investigating a TD-LTE trial in concert with Qualcomm.
Operators in emerging markets including Indonesia and the Philippines are pursuing LTE initiatives that are aimed at delivering basic fixed wireless broadband services. In Indonesia, Telkomsel is trialing LTE at 1800 MHz. Licenses at 2.3 and 3.3 GHz have been awarded in Indonesia, although they are currently limited by technology prescriptions specific to Wimax.
In the Philippines, Globe Telecom is aggressively pursuing LTE trials at 2100 MHz and has requested additional spectrum in the band along with bandwidth at 700 MHz. Smart Communications is also conducting trial activities in the Philippines.
In other markets like Thailand, where 3G has yet to be deployed, we anticipate that operators will bypass HSPA entirely as they focus on LTE. In December 2010, Thailand's TrueMove launched an LTE trial in partnership with Alcatel-Lucent.
In other nations in the region, regulators and operators also have LTE on the radar with commercialization strategies. While 3G licensing is pending in Bangladesh, this delay has not halted GrameenPhone's LTE network upgrade plans with a contract awarded to Huawei in November 2010. Operators in Cambodia are examining their options for LTE, and in December 2010, the Cambodian Government awarded a contract to Russia's Alltech Telecom to deploy an LTE network. Nepal's regulator is also studying the prospects for LTE. Meanwhile, Mongolia's G-Mobile is one of six CDMA operators around the world that has requested approval from the ITU to upgrade to LTE using spectrum at 450 MHz.