Telecommunications operators need to offer the best service to their customers. Users are becoming more demanding and are aware of the possibilities that LTE will bring. Operators are aware of this and, sooner or later, they will have to improve their network and launch LTE to their customers in the region.
The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is deploying LTE in some countries, but not all consumers have access.
Analysts forecast an enormous growth in LTE connectivity. According to Juniper Research, 4G LTE mobile technology will witness a rapid uptake in the next five years, with active connections crossing the 1 billion mark in 2017 and reaching 1.8 billion by 2019.
However, the GSMA has a more optimistic forecast and expects 2.5 billion 4G-LTE connections worldwide in 2020.
According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, there will be 9.3 billion mobile subscriptions in 2019. Sixty-five percent of the world’s population will have LTE coverage by 2019. GSMA states that 64% of the world’s population will be covered by 4G-LTE networks by the end of 2020.
The Ericsson Mobility Report said that the number of mobile subscriptions in the MEA region will grow from 1.2 billion in 2013 to 1.9 billion in 2019, while mobile penetration in the Middle East is currently at 107%, with 365 million mobile subscriptions.
Teemu Salmi, vice president and head of Operations, Ericsson Middle East and North East Africa Region, said: “There is a phenomenal growth in the MEA region as the development of networks, economic growth and opportunities create more connectivity potential in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, while the uptake of smart devices continues to increase in the Middle East to drive LTE figures higher.
“There are 36 commercial TD-LTE networks and we expect active TD-LTE connections to demonstrate a higher annual growth rate when compared to FD-LTE (Frequency Division) over the next five years”, noted Nitin Bhas, author of the report “4G LTE: Subscribers, Smartphones, Base Stations and Service Revenue 2014-2019” at Juniper Research.
According to Ericsson, 4G/LTE subscriptions are expected to reach 85% in North America and 30% in Europe in 2019.
GSMA Intelligence forecasts that almost 50% of the population will be covered by LTE networks in the Middle East by 2020, and over 25%, in Africa.
The GSA (Global Mobile Suppliers Association) confirmed that 168 manufacturers have announced 1,889 LTE-enabled user devices, including operator and frequency variants, along with 300 commercial network launches.
GSMA stated that there are 264 LTE networks commercially launched across 101 countries worldwide between December 2009 and January 2014. This organisation expects almost as many additional LTE networks to be launch over the next five years.
There are 835 LTE-enabled smartphones with share growing to over 44% of all LTE device types. The choice of LTE-connected personal hotspots (MiFi) and tablets has grown. There are 175 LTE-enabled tablets available, representing 9.2% of all LTE devices, with 43 more products now on the market compared to in March 2014, according to GSA.
However, there are some operators that believe the region is not ready for LTE as these devices have not arrived in the region in a significant way.
The most often used band for LTE network deployments globally is 1800 MHz (3GPP band 3). Forty three percent of LTE operators use 1800 MHz in their networks, either as a single band, or as part of a multi-band deployment. The 1800 MHz band also has the largest LTE user devices ecosystem. There has been announced 769 LTE1800 user devices have been announced, achieving 170% year on year growth. Over 40% of all LTE devices can operate in 1800 MHz (band 3), according to the “Status of the LTE Ecosystem” report published by GSA.
Alan Hadden, president of the GSA, said: “Rapidly expanding LTE network coverage [globally], boosted by digital dividend spectrum coming into use in several markets, the introduction of LTE-Advanced capabilities by operators in all regions, and the fast developing TDD market in China are amongst the key drivers behind the fantastic growth we reported.
- 1.8 billion LTE active connections by 2019, reported Juniper Research
- 2.5 billion 4G-LTE connections worldwide in 2020, according to GSMA
- 835 LTE-enabled smartphones,reported GSA
- 175 LTE-enabled tablets, according to GSA
- 264 LTE networks commercially launched globally, published GSMA
300 commercial network launches, according to GSA