Right now across Asia, 63 percent of mobile telcos have rolled out 4G LTE services, or are now conducting trials or have firm plans. That’s the finding of ABI Research in a new paper on the infrastructure for the next-gen mobile data network that will eventually supersede 3G.
Of course, trials and plans do not help consumers stream any movies at blazing web speeds, so the reality is that 4G is fully deployed in very few areas of the Asia-Pacific region – mainly in Japan and South Korea. Indeed, ABI notes:
Out of 110 networks, 10 operators (9 percent) have commercial 4G LTE networks up and running. Another 58 (53 percent) either have specific plans to roll out LTE or are conducting trials.
That’s some way behind the deployment rates among North American and European carriers. Jake Saunders, ABI’s vice president of forecasting, added:
We estimate total Asia-Pacific mobile capital expenditure to reach US$53.3 billion by the end of 2012. 62 percent is still very much earmarked for radio access network deployment. Other key investment areas include EPC and gateway upgrades to the core network at 9 percent, as well as improving in-building wireless coverage into dense urban centers at 5.7 percent.
In Japan, we recently reported that NTT Docomo has two million LTE subscribers; whilst in neighboring South Korea, SK Telecom paid nearly a billion dollars for a key LTE spectrum last year, and is now busy wooing consumers with smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S II LTE, hoping to lure people away from 3G.
China, meanwhile, has said that 4G can wait another two to three years for an initial roll-out while the nation concentrates on strengthening its 3G infrastructure. China will use the LTE-TDD standard that Apple will reportedly support. Trials are indeed underway, but are limited in scope even within the select half dozen cities where it’s being tested.
We’ve not seen so much action out of India, so thankfully ABI has been keeping its eyes peeled there:
Heavy RAN [LTE-RAN, a different network standard] investment has been taking place in India. A number of operators are jockeying for position in a very competitive marketplace. On April 10, Bharti Airtel became the first operator to launch 4G LTE services in India, in Kolkata. Bharti Airtel hopes to launch 4G services in Bangalore before June 2012. Equipment spend is not just occurring in 4G. The Indian operator, Idea, has continued to roll out 2,270 2G cell sites and 1,176 3G cell sites in the past year.
Singapore will allocate airwaves for 4G next year, says Reuters, but an island-wide rollout is not expected until 2016.
[Source: ABI Research]