SA's LTE commitments lag

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South Africa is one of only five counties in Africa that have LTE commercial network deployments 'ongoing or planned'. The other countries are Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria and Libya.

This is according to an update of the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) Status of the LTE Ecosystem report.

The report, published last week, further lists Egypt and Kenya as countries with pre-commitment LTE trial systems.

However, the report shows that while LTE, or long-term evolution, is the fastest growing mobile technology to date, SA and Africa as a whole are significantly behind the rest of the world with regard to its deployment.

Furthermore, while SA compares favourably to the rest of Africa with regard to LTE, insufficient spectrum has stopped LTE from being rolled out commercially.

The report notes SA as one of 60 countries where LTE network deployments are in progress or planned.

An earlier GSA report released in May, The GSA Evolution to LTE report, also lists SA as having “firm LTE network commitments”.

However, while MTN, Vodacom and Cell C are all running LTE trials, when contacted, only MTN could confirm concrete LTE commitments.

Lambo Kanagaratnam, MTN SA's chief technology officer, says MTN will have 100 LTE base stations active in Gauteng by the end of the year.

According to the May report, MTN is trialling LTE in 1800MHz spectrum while Cell C is trialling it in existing 900MHz as well as in test 850MHz spectrum. Vodacom is showcasing LTE and says it has 1 000 LTE-ready sites, and will roll out LTE “when handsets become available”.

This puts SA behind Nigeria, where LTE connectivity is available to corporate users in Lagos and other cities.

SA has also been unable to set a deadline for the commercial roll-out of LTE.

Except for Brazil, all the other Brics member states have set deadlines for the commercialisation of LTE.

Russia's Rostelecom and Yota have committed to a 2011 deadline; India's Qualcomm India LTE Venture and Reliance have both committed to a 2011 deadline; while China's China Mobile and China Telecom have committed to a 2012 deadline.

The report states that there has been a 40% increase in the number of LTE-enabled products unveiled in the past three months.

Moreover, the report states, there are 208 operators in 80 countries investing in LTE, compared to 98 operators in June last year.

LTE has already been commercially rolled out in 14 countries (Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Lithuania, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, US, and Uzbekistan). GSA further estimates that by 2012, at least 81 LTE networks will be in commercial service.

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