The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) has released a new set of reports confirming the march of mobile broadband into the global mainstream.
The path to mobile broadband began with 3G/WCDMA, which is now commercially available on 347 networks in 144 countries. Its first evolution, High Speed Packet Access (HSPA), boosts capacity and user data speeds. Remarkably, HSPA has now been deployed and commercially launched on 341 networks, i.e. by over 98% of WCDMA operators.
2,349 HSPA user devices have been launched by more than 230 suppliers, with 610 devices announced in the last 6 months alone. In the notebooks and netbooks segment, 432 products are equipped with HSPA embedded as standard or optional, and 10 HSPA-enabled e-book readers are launched. There are now almost 1,000 models of HSPA-enabled phones on the market, with smartphones being the key growth segment. Excluding notebooks and e-book readers, the number of HSPA devices which incorporate WiFi has increased 44% since October 2009, and the number with navigation functionality grew by a similar amount.
For the uplink, the number of HSUPA devices has exploded by 77% since October 2009 with 609 products now launched. 100 HSUPA networks have commercially launched in 53 countries.
Further improvements in data speed, capacity and performance come with Evolved HSPA, i.e. HSPA+. In a global industry survey organized in 2009 by GSA, most respondents believed that HSPA+ mobile broadband technology would enter the mainstream during 2010. The new reports confirm that this expectation is rapidly becoming reality. 103 operators in 51 countries have committed to HSPA+ network deployments. 52 HSPA+ systems are now in commercial service in 32 countries. Most support a peak downlink data speed of 21 Mbps, with 6 networks supporting 28 Mbps or higher. A further 51 HSPA+ networks are in deployment or planned. GSA expects that 90 HSPA+ systems will be in commercial service by end 2010.
Device capabilities have improved to support the rapidly evolving networks. Excluding notebooks and e-book readers, more than 1,000 devices support peak downlink data speeds of 7.2 Mbps or higher. Forty two HSPA+ devices have been announced by 11 suppliers.
HSPA+ itself has a strong evolution path. Several networks will support 42 Mbps peak downlink capabilities this year. This is achieved by combining 64QAM modulation and doubling the bandwidth, i.e. by deploying dual carriers (2 x 5 MHz = 10 MHz). These systems are called DC-HSPA, and this capability was introduced in the 3GPP Release 8 standard. The specifications also enable 42 Mbps to be achieved by combining 2 x 2 MIMO technology and 64 QAM modulation in a single 5 MHz carrier. The uplink can be doubled to 11.5 Mbps peak by using 16QAM modulation instead of QPSK. Release 9 (which is being standardized now) will combine multicarrier and MIMO technologies in 10 MHz carrier bandwidth to deliver 84 Mbps peak on the downlink. Using multicarrier on the uplink can double the peak rate to 23 Mbps. Further steps beyond that are envisaged in standardization beyond Release 9.
GSA also confirms the rapidly expanding eco-system for deploying HSPA systems in lower (below 1 GHz) spectrum. For example, there are now 321 HSPA devices (UMTS900) to support the wave of operators now deploying or planning networks in 900 MHz spectrum, which is being liberalized in many markets including throughout Europe to enable mobile broadband services to be deployed alongside GSM voice services.
LTE is the main direction for the industry. There are now 64 firm LTE network commitments in 31 countries, with a further 24 technology trials underway around the globe. GSA anticipates that the number of commercial LTE networks will increase steadily to reach 22 networks launched by the end of 2010.
All of the GSA reports are available as free downloads from www.gsacom.com