It doesn’t seem long ago that I remember looking across the Atlantic with pride as Europe forged ahead with the deployment of GSM systems, while the USA struggled to keep up with a disparate array of mobile network standards. Not anymore. Last week T-Mobile became the last of the four US national mobile operators to announce its intention to launch LTE services in 2013, while the plans for many European network operators remain unclear.
We have commented previously on the early launch of LTE services in the USA and indeed the plans of both AT&T Mobility and Sprint Nextel to launch LTE-Advanced services in the USA in 2013.
In January 2012, Sprint stated its intention to launch LTE in Dallas, Atlanta, Houston and San Antonio in the first half of 2012.
Now T-Mobile has announced the launch of LTE services in 2013, as part of a USD4billion network modernisation programme. Part of the plan is to refarm existing HSPA+ services to 1900MHz, which has previously been used only to support GSM. This releases the 1700MHz band for LTE and has the added benefit that T-Mobile will then be in a position to support the Apple iPhone with HSPA+ services. Currently T-Mobile is the only one of the big four US operators that is unable to support the iPhone, because its HSPA+ services operate in unsupported bands. With rumours that the imminent iPad3 will support LTE, there was a danger of T-Mobile being seriously left behind by its competitors.
As the USA presses ahead with LTE, the gap between the USA and Europe appears to be widening. France, Italy, Spain and the UK are all currently without LTE networks. The UK doesn’t even have a firm date for the auction of new spectrum for LTE, let alone network operator plans to deploy commercial LTE services. As LTE networks and devices become increasingly prevalent around the world, countries and individual network operators without it are going to look increasingly like the poor relations.