GSA counts 49 LTE operators globally, with 4 in Latin America, Caribbean

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There are four LTE networks in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) said in an updated report about the LTE evolution. The association confirmed 49 LTE operators have launched commercial services. The GSA report covers LTE FDD and LTE TDD system modes.

In the region, Puerto Rico was the first to provide LTE services. AT&T launched its services Nov. 20, followed by América Móvil’s Claro on Nov. 24. On Dec. 13, DirecTV’s Sky Brazil and Uruguay’s Antel launched LTE services. The GSA did not include Colombia’s UNE-EPM in its list. The association noted that UNE-EPM is deploying an LTE2600 network for service launch in this year’s first quarter, initially Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, Bucaramanga. The first base station was activated Nov. 28.

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The GSA also noted that 285 operators — an increase of more than 30% from six months ago — have committed to commercial LTE network deployments or are engaged in trials, technology testing or studies. It confirmed 226 firm commercial LTE network deployments, 36% higher than six months ago, are in progress or planned in 76 countries, including 49 networks which are now launched, and another 59 operators in 17 additional countries are engaged in LTE technology trials, tests or studies.

The GSA forecasts there will be 119 commercial LTE networks in more than 50 countries by the end of 2012.

Trials
In Latin America region, several carriers have been conducting trials, such as Brazil’s Oi, Telefónica’s Vivo, Algar Telecom (CTBC) and América Móvil’s Claro. In addition, the São Paulo military police force is testing LTE in 700 MHz, and is trialling using five base stations. The Brazil army is reported to be interested in testing LTE in 700 MHz for public security solutions in Brasilia and is awaiting approval for a test licence.

In Mexico, Telefónica and Telcel have conducted tests of LTE. Telefónica plans to launch LTE by 2013 while Telcel is preparing for commercial launch in 2012.

In Puerto Rico, in addition to AT&T and Claro LTE networks, the CDMA operator Open Mobile is deploying an LTE network in 700 MHz and plans to launch commercial services early this year.

Chile’s Entel PCS completed its LTE trial at the Universidad de Chile. Movistar publicly demonstrated LTE EG at Connect 2010, and Claro has also been trialling LTE.

In Paraguay, Vox (Copaco) plans to deploy a commercial LTE network, targeting an August 2012 launch. In Peru, Telefónica Movistar has been trialling LTE.

Costa Rica’s ICE is also considering LTE deployment by the end of 2012, while in the Dominican Republic, Orange Dominicana has been trialling LTE since April 2011. Jamaica’s Claro is reported to be deploying an LTE system.

Auctions
However, LTE deployment still require the bidding of frequency bands. Brazilian regulator Anatel plans to auction 2.6 GHz and 440 MHz spectrum in April. Brazil is aiming for LTE to be commercially live before the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Mexico’s government plans to auction 700 MHz and 2.6 GHz. In a decree published in Sept. 2010, President Felipe Calderon stated that the 700 MHz band should be freed for mobile broadband and that digital TV switchover must be completed by 2015. However, this declaration currently faces a legal challenge.

MVS Comunicaciones announced plans for a U.S. $1 billion investment in LTE as part of a consortium of companies. The plan requires approval of the Finance Ministry and regulator Cofetel. A wholesale business model is proposed.

In Chile, regulator Subtel announced availability of bidding documents for 2.6 GHz spectrum licences last month. Three blocks are to be auctioned and allocated in this year’s first quarter. It is understood there is no regulatory barrier to operators deploying LTE in current mobile spectrum.

The Colombian ICT Ministry last month invited expressions of interest to participate in an auction for spectrum in Band IV (AWS), Band II (PCS1900) and Band VII (2.6 GHz). No deadline for applications has been set, nor an official start date for the tender advertized.

In Ecuador, the Ministry of Telecommunication & Information Society announced the National Broadband Plan is to be strengthened to assist development of high-speed Internet access to underserved areas. New measures include a resolution to implement LTE in all regions.

In Guatemala, the regulator SIT has confirmed at least seven bands as being suitable for LTE, including 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, AWS and 2.1 GHz.

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