The UK trails other countries in LTE deployment
In December 2009, Swedish operator Teliasonera announced the launch of the world’s first commercial mobile networks using the LTE standard, and by October 2011 LTE networks had launched in 21 countries worldwide, including six of our 17 comparator countries). In November 2011, two million subscribers currently use LTE services on 31 networks around the world, according to the GSA.
However, the evolution of mobile networks is happening at a different pace in different countries. With spectrum auctions not scheduled until the second half of 2012, LTE services are unlikely to launch in the UK, Italy, Ireland and Australia until 2013 or later, while the early launch of high-speed LTE services in Sweden followed a 2.6GHz spectrum auction in 2008, and also comes in the context of high mobile broadband take-up. Despite relatively high mobile data use in the UK, the launch of LTE services will be later than in many countries, as operators wait to purchase additional radio spectrum before rolling out LTE commercially, relying on HSPA until then. Ofcom has announced plans to auction spectrum at 800MHz and 2.6GHz (the former is ‘digital dividend’ spectrum made available by the switchover from analogue to digital television), which is likely to take place in the second half of 2012. In the meantime, operators are trialling LTE; Everything Everywhere announced in May 2011 that it would conduct a trial in Cornwall from September 2011 to early 2012, while in November 2011 O2 launched a nine-month trial in parts of London.
Due to the greater availability of spectrum and a general focus on mobile rather than fixed-line infrastructure, the BRIC countries are ahead of many other countries, including the UK, in rolling out LTE networks. As illustrated in Figure 6.13 below, China has been offering services on a limited scale since 2010 and Brazil is expected to follow suit in 2012. India has only recently launched 3G services, but LTE services are expected to launch in 2012. In Russia, the focus has been on the deployment of Wimax wireless broadband services (Wimax is an alternative technology standard to LTE for delivering high-speed mobile broadband services).