The mobile industry's transition to LTE is well and truly under way. This time last year, LTE had only been commercially launched in a handful of European markets. As of June 30, according to the 4GCounts Quarterly Report from analyst firm Maravedis, 20 operators had commercially launched LTE, with another 177 cellcos committed to it, and another four conducting trials of both FDD-LTE and TD-LTE.
Meanwhile, service uptake is growing at reassuring triple-digit rates - the same Maravedis report said that subscriber numbers for LTE worldwide grew 478% between Q1 and Q2 this year.
Now that LTE services and devices are commercially available, it's become both possible and crucial to examine not just what operators plan to do with LTE, but what those who have launched commercially are actually doing with it now. The rise of smartphones and tablets has thrown 3.5G business models into flux, and LTE is a chance to not only throw capacity at all that traffic and run it more efficiently, but also develop new, improved business models better suited to the new post-3G era.
To that end, Telecom Asia and Maravedis - with sponsorship from Huawei Technologies - conducted a global survey of operators to assess the current state of play with LTE - not just where cellcos are with their LTE deployments in terms of technical aspects like initial coverage, fallback options, offload strategies and deployment challenges, but also how commercial LTE operators are selling their services - and how up-and-coming LTE players intend to compete. As such, we asked how they differentiate LTE from existing 3G services, how they're adding value to LTE beyond the obvious speed gains and what devices are in their service pipeline.
The short answer: many operators are going for the obvious difference - throughput speeds - and charging accordingly, but plenty of others are willing to experiment with different ideas to leverage LTE to take mobile broadband services into uncharted territory.