Research firm, Analysys Mason, claims LTE in 2014 "will make the spectrum-rich richer, and the spectrum-poor just a little better off" as more operators will deploy LTE-A carrier aggregation (CA) which benefits those with multiple spectrum positions; in particular, operators with small pieces and those which are combining acquired networks.
According to the firm, while initial focus is on higher speed services, it expects more deployments of 5+5MHz carrier aggregation as emerging markets deploy LTE in 2014.
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Additionally, early testing of carrier aggregation is enabling operators to bind separate spectrum channels together to create larger channels and faster wireless services, and reduce OpEx and CapEx costs from running multiple networks.
Analysys Mason believes LTE band fractionalisations will end in 2014, and despite early and well-publicised concerns regarding the number of different bands supporting LTE, the market has only focused nine. Of the 25 FD-LTE bands, emphasis has been placed on 700Mhz, 800MHz, AWS 1.7GHz and 2.1GHz, 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz. Similarly, four of the 11 TD-LTE bands have been focused on, including 2.3GHz, 2.5GHz, 2.6GHz, and 3.5/3.6GHz.
"Devices are able to support approximately six bands (the new iPhone 5s/5c support 17 via different models), thus providing room to support both 'local' bands as well as the more commonly used 'global' bands," the firm said in a statement.
"One area that remains potentially problematic for operators is support for LTE-A, which we expect will largely be a local phenomenon and not available for roaming services."
VoLTE not quite yet
Analysys Mason predicts that voice over LTE (VoLTE) is unlikely to make a significant impact in 2014 as few countries will have the breadth of network needed for useful service (Japan and USA aside). In Australia, the firm said Telstra may launch VoLTE with HD Voice as a competitive differentiator. This must include a 'fallback' solution for non-native VoLTE calls, or calls in areas where LTE coverage is lacking or limited, according to the firm.
"We also expect carriers will move more slowly towards Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (SRVCC) because the complexity of that solution demands a simplification by the equipment vendors for widespread implementation."