LTE hits 4bn users worldwide as 45 operators start 5G services

06 June 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Today’s 4G technology is the fastest growing mobile technology ever, says an industry report, and some 45 operators in 30 countries have already announced the deployment of 5G within their live networks.

The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), which represents equipment companies in the industry, says that 4G, also known as long-term evolution (LTE) “is a global success, with around 4 billion subscriptions, connecting 47% of mobile users”. The GSA declares it “the fastest developing mobile system technology ever”.

A report this week from the GSA says 750 operators are now running 4G LTE networks that provide mobile and/or fixed wireless access in 223 countries and territories. “In another key milestone, there are now over 300 operators running LTE-Advanced networks,” says the GSA.

The report says 861 operators are actively investing in LTE, including those evaluating or testing and trialling LTE and those paying for suitable spectrum licences.

The GSA expects there to be 760-770 commercially launched LTE networks by the end of 2019.

Of these, 333 operators are investing in LTE-Advanced technology in 141 countries, the GSA says.

Joe Barrett, president of the GSA, said: “While the development and deployment of 5G continues to dominate the headlines, the continued success and growth of LTE has been somewhat overlooked.”

Interest in 5G is rising fast, well exceeding the 45 operators that have active services. The GSA counts “235 operators in 93 countries [that] have launched with limited availability, deployed, demonstrated, are testing or trialling, or have been licensed to conduct field trials of mobile 5G or FWA [fixed wireless access] 5G”.

Barrett added: “Our research shows that not only does the pace of 5G growth continue to be impressive, but also that LTE has been the fastest growing cellular technology in history. The drivers of LTE, LTE-Advanced, LTE-Advanced Pro and increasingly 5G for operators are more capacity, enhanced performance, improved efficiencies and access to new spectrum.”

He said that LTE “offered a big step up in the user experience, enhancing demanding apps such as interactive TV, video blogging, advanced gaming and professional services – and is now being enjoyed by subscribers in 223 countries with still more trials and network deployments underway.”