LTE, or Long Term Evolution, is the next step in the technical evolution of 2G/3G networks supported by all major players in the industry. LTE offers the capacity and the speed to handle a rapid increase in data traffic with close to 5 billion mobile broadband subscriptions in 2016. It is the fastest developing system in the history of mobile communication.
The first major LTE milestone in the Latin America and Caribbean region was a live trial held with Entel PCS in Chile in January 2010. During the trial, the network achieved maximum download rates of 50Mbps, demonstrating high-speed data transfers and services such as high-definition video streaming.
Ericsson has also successfully demonstrated LTE with Telecom Personal in Argentina, in June 2010, and most recently with Orange Dominicana in the Dominican Republic in April.
Peter Michelson, Head of Mobile Broadband for Ericsson Region Latin America, spoke about the current status of LTE in Latin America and the Caribbean and what the future holds in terms of this technology evolution.
How would you describe the growth of interest in LTE in Latin America and the Caribbean?
Overall, I would say that LTE is very high up on the industry agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean, and for good reasons. With LTE, the industry is officially uniting behind one true global mobile standard for the first time, although it is fair to say that already today HSPA has become the clear global de facto standard. This means that in essence, every operator in Latin America will one day migrate to LTE, and therefore, of course, the interest is very large.
What is the current state of LTE in Latin America and the Caribbean?
We foresee the first commercial deployments of LTE in the region during 2011, starting in Puerto Rico and Colombia. In addition, I would say that the activity level is high. In particular, the regulatory community is working very hard to ensure that we have proper LTE frequency allocation in the respective markets. Furthermore, we are working with many of our customers on LTE trial activities.
How are operators reacting to LTE?
All operators that I meet see LTE as the very — and only — evolution of their current networks. It is not really a question of “why LTE,” but “when and how.” From that perspective, we are in a unique position with our global LTE leadership. Having worked closely with many operators in other countries to plan their LTE introductions, we can now leverage this experience to assist our customers in Latin America and the Caribbean.
What are the main operator challenges to implementing LTE?
First and foremost, you want to make sure that you quickly get a well- performing network up and running. Therefore, at Ericsson, we have put network performance and stability at the heart of our development, and we now see that paying off as we measure our performance in live networks and compare that to the performance of our competitors. Additionally, as always with the introduction of next-generation technologies, consumer devices are key, and we now see the LTE ecosystem ramping up at a rapid pace. In this context, we at Ericsson work with our joint venture ST-Ericsson, as well as all major device players, to ensure both performance and availability.
What role do end users play in driving the deployment of LTE?
Consumer devices and the ecosystem at large are important factors for rapid uptake of new technologies. The HSPA, and now LTE, ecosystem is developing at an unprecedented pace, so from that perspective it is fair to say that consumers really are drivng LTE deployments. As always, it will be the early adopters who try out the new devices and technologies, and from there we will see this expanding into mass- market segments.
Besides the two commercial LTE deployments you mentioned earlier, can we expect to see LTE in other Latin American and Caribbean countries soon?
Absolutely. We see commitments and planned near-term deployments in many countries in the region, including Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, just to mention a few.
How would you summarize Ericsson’s position in LTE?
I think it is fair to say that Ericsson is leading the way for LTE by us being the main provider to the vast majority of the largest commercially launched networks worldwide, such as Verizon and Metro PCS in the United States. It is also particularly satisfying to see that live performance in these networks is excellent in terms of upload and download speeds, stability, etc., where we clearly outperform some of our peers.