Next-generation LTE networks could be deployed in as many as 20 frequency bands, creating “a great deal of uncertainty” in the minds of mobile device component suppliers about which to support, according to a new Strategy Analytics report. The report – ‘LTE Device & Band Scenarios’ – predicts that mobile devices with low-band (700 MHz to 850 MHz) LTE capabilities will make up the largest segment (more than 40 percent) of the LTE device market through 2014. The study focuses on the 12 “most important” E-UTRA LTE spectrum bands. “Verizon and AT&T Mobility will be among the first to use the 700 MHz bands for LTE,” noted Christopher Taylor, director of the RF & wireless components unit at Strategy Analytics and author of the report. “Most mobile operators prefer the lower bands for LTE (700 MHz to 850 MHz) as these bands provide better range and indoor reception than higher frequency bands. Once operators establish LTE coverage, they will add FD and TD capacity at the higher frequencies, in particular 2.3 GHz and 2.6 GHz.”

According to Wireless Intelligence, there are currently 115 operator commitments for LTE trials and/or commercial deployments (as well as two currently live networks from TeliaSonera). Indeed, the vast majority of mobile operators are moving towards LTE deployment, but even early deployments are using a variety of different spectrum bands. Whereas TeliaSonera has launched networks in Stockholm and Oslo using 20MHz radio channels in the 2.6GHz band, Verizon is planning to use 10MHz channels in the 700MHz band. NTT Docomo is deploying LTE at 2GHz initially, but later plans to also use the 1.5GHz spectrum band. As noted in a recent Mobile Business Briefing blog, this means LTE dongle and handset manufacturers will either have to make different products for different markets or will have to go to the additional expense and work of producing devices that can support all these bands. More importantly, the choice of spectrum bands, which have different propagation characteristics, also has implications for an operator’s LTE strategy, which will influence the kinds of devices, services and apps they want to deploy.