LTE can be deployed in existing 2G or 3G bands, and in new spectrum such as 2.6 GHz now being allocated in many regions, and the Digital Dividend bands (700 or 800 MHz depending on region). The spectrum segmentation for LTE can be a blessing and a curse. The positive aspects of this is that many different mobile operators can make do with whatever spectrum they have and recoup it to have LTE, they can purchase spectrum in a different frequency that may not be crowded, giving them a lot of flexibility. This in turn can help many operators commit and decide to move towards LTE. At the same time, the segmentation will have many different operators spread over different frequency divisions. Initially, this will delay the product economies of scale, while certain frequencies begin to ramp up in amount of base stations and devices being ordered for those bands. As this happens, prices go down, and operators in developing nations can start thinking on investing in LTE.
Larger, nationwide carriers that have interest in covering large extensive areas, as well as providing broadband services to rural regions, are likely to be interested in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz or 900 MHz frequencies. The propagation properties of these frequency bands permit reaching communities that couldn’t be reached previously, and Operators interested in having an initial, larger coverage area, and later add capacity as demand grows, will use these frequencies as well. These frequencies require fewer base stations to provide the same population coverage than other higher frequency base stations. On the other hand, service providers looking to supply capacity in small dense urban or suburban areas will be interested in higher frequencies, such as 1.5 GHz and higher, since the physical properties of higher frequencies are shorter in range, but yield greater capacity than lower frequencies. Base stations will have to be closer and greater in number to provide higher capacity.
As a result in the USA, major commercial LTE deployments have taken place in 700/800 MHz spectrum and in existing AWS (1.7/2.1 GHz) spectrum. There is strong demand in Europe, Asia and elsewhere to access new 800 MHz Digital Dividend spectrum for extended geographical coverage and improved in-building performance. The first commercial 800 MHz services have launched in Germany for rural broadband services. There is also high interest in using re-farmed spectrum for LTE, e.g. 900, and particularly 1800 MHz bands as regulators adopt a technology-neutral approach. Initial deployments in Japan use 800 MHz, 1.5 GHz and 1.7 GHz (operator-dependant). The Middle East region, on the other hand has seen initial deployments in higher spectrum bands such as the 2.6 GHz, which has targeted metropolitan areas.
For more information, see: