ABI Research: LTE-A has reached 100m people, set to cross 1bn by 2018

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We might be looking ahead to what 5G should look like, but the current priority is to get LTE-Advanced technology out to as many users as possible. According to ABI Research, LTE-A has now reached 100 million people around the world just four years after its creation. 

ABI highlights that at the end of 2014 there were 49 commercially-available LTE-A networks around the globe. 20 operators in Western Europe offer LTE-A access, and a further 13 in the Asia-Pacific region. North America, however, is leading the way in terms of population coverage. 

In America, all four of the major operators have either deployed or are in the process of deploying - their LTE-A networks. This leading roll-out has achieved a coverage of 7.8% with the number set to rise much further over the coming years in-part due to auctions such as the spectrum auction hosted by the FCC for AWS-3 spectrum which finished earlier this month.

For a quick AWS-3 spectrum auction roundup; AT&T splashed the cash with J Block (paired spectrum at 1770-1780, and 2170-2180MHz) in major markets like New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, San Antonio, and others for a total of 251 licenses at a cost of $18.2bn. Verizon came second and spent $10.4 billion on 181 licenses in the aforementioned J Block, as well as in H Block (1760-1765 and 2160-2165MHz) and I Block (1765-1770 and 2165-2170MHz.) T-Mobile meanwhile won 157 licenses in the 5x5MHz paired spectrum in various blocks across the country to aggregate with its existing AWS-1 holdings for $1.8bn.

Further spectrum auctions are being held elsewhere, including India, where The Telecom Regulatory Authority has confirmed an LTE spectrum auction on the 25th February. In France, the government has re-assigned the 700MHz spectrum for use by telecoms services.

"As heavy subscribers' data traffic growth has exploded, ABI Research anticipates fierce competition for more spectrum, as well as an active migration to VoLTE and higher data modulation schemes such as LTE and LTE-Advanced, which has higher spectral efficiency," comments Jake Saunders, VP and Practice Director of Core Forecasting.

These spectrum auctions are important to support the 1 billion LTE-Advanced users which ABI Research expects by 2018 - an increase of 900%.

Do you think LTE-A coverage will reach one billion people by 2018? Let us know in the comments.

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