Despite the hype around LTE network deployments, the gap between HSPA+ networks and LTE networks in emerging markets will widen in 2012, according to new research from Yankee Group. The report, “Emerging Markets Will Wait for LTE,” identifies 63 new HSPA+ networks that are expected this year versus 55 LTE networks but paints a fuzzy picture beyond 2012. Even with the 101 emerging markets operators that have either committed to LTE or trialed the technology, there are only two for LTE deployments on the horizon for 2013.
The report further details:
The majority of LTE launches in both emerging and advanced markets have been with cellular modems. Unfortunately, the handset ecosystem is not well developed and devices are expensive. This also means tablet and laptop penetration becomes a constraint on LTE’s appeal.
Fixed broadband customers will be the primary target for emerging markets new entrants. They will do at least some damage to incumbent mobile operators. New entrants are always attractive because they’re new and will definitely play the “most advanced technology” card.
Devices and spectrum are the main barriers to LTE deployment. The paucity of low-cost, LTE-enabled smartphones and under-developed spectrum available for auction are huge roadblocks for LTE uptake by emerging markets operators.
“The uptake of LTE across emerging markets is uncertain for the immediate future,” says Wally Swain, Yankee Group senior VP and author of the report. “That isn’t to say there will not be LTE launches. Most will come from new operators or incumbents with new spectrum in LTE-friendly bands. Some incumbents will launch LTE for branding or competitive reasons—to be first in their market or combat new entrants—or to deal with specific issues such as urban congestion.”