Twenty-six operators are committed to the long-term evolution 4G standard, according to research released this week by the Global Mobile Suppliers Association. While the forum for GSM and 3G suppliers worldwide decidedly has a stake in promoting LTE, the number indicates growing momentum for the standard, which promises download data rates of at least 100Mbps.
Fierce competition has arisen to become the world's first LTE operator in an arena regarded as the next generation of mobile phone service and a huge draw for customers.
Ten network operators are ready to launch their networks by 2010, according to the report. In the U.S., these include Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February; MetroPCS; and CenturyTel., which committed to 4G at the 2009 GSMA
TeliaSonera in Sweden and Norway has signed on. In Japan, NTT DoCoMo and KDDI are onboard, and in Canada, it's Rogers Wireless, Telus, and Bell Canada. Sixteen more telecommunications companies will launch their LTE 4G services after 2010.
With earlier launches of new mobile-network standards, handset availability has been a limiting factor for the commercial launch of the service. In the GSA report, two mobile players have already predicted release dates of their LTE phones. Sweden's Ericsson says it will have an LTE-capable platform for commercial release in 2009 and will deliver mobile products based on the platform in 2010. South Korea's LG has announced that its first LTE mobile phones will likely reach the market in 2010.
For users, 4G wireless technology is primarily about higher data rates to match the increasing capabilities being offered by phones. But consumers probably won't experience the full impact of 4G until 2012 or 2013, when Strategy Analytics forecasts that the global LTE handset market will increase from 70 million sales units to 150 million.