The lure of LTE

Basharat Ashai/Maravedis
21 Jun 2010

LTE is quickly gaining momentum across Asia with developments in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and China leading the revolution in the region.

Japan's NTT DoCoMo is expected to be the first operator in Asia to launch commercial LTE services in December. The company is banking on video services to boost income and expects the introduction of its LTE platform to increase data traffic from 42% to more than 50% of network capacity.

On the other hand, KDDI in Japan is only planning to launch commercial LTE services in December 2012, two years after NTT DoCoMo's expected launch.

KDDI's plan is to initially deploy LTE as an overlay of the existing 3G network, covering only those areas where the traffic pressure from its current mobile users is high, and not the entire 3G service area.

KDDI will then gradually replace the existing 3G network with LTE services, which KDDI assumes will take some years. KDDI's approach represents the strategy of the majority of operators in Japan - small-scale LTE deployments servicing only larger cities.

3G fuels competition

Following the restructuring of the telecom industry and the issuance of 3G licenses in China, market competition has intensified exponentially.

China Mobile has accelerated its TD-LTE development plans to combat these competitive forces and address limitations in its existing 3G TD-SCDMA services - namely the need for custom handsets, which have dual- or multi-mode connectivity to allow for global roaming.

In partnership with ZTE, China Mobile completed an indoor MIMO network performance test at the end of Q1 in Beijing. China Mobile also started its first experimental TD-LTE network at the site of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

This move will provide China Mobile with an opportunity to leapfrog the competition and emerge as the first operator to deploy LTE in China, thereby representing a significant competitive advantage.

Mobile operators in Hong Kong are also actively evaluating LTE strategies to address growing capacity requirements driven by continuously expanding data traffic on their networks. Data service revenue is growing strongly as a result of the increasing popularity of smartphones.

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