I was recently asked by a friend how I see the current LTE spectrum assignments. I would have liked to give a simple answer but it is actually not quite straight forward. This is how I see it at the moment:
- 2.1 GHz band, used for 3G today but still a lot of unused capacity: Most likely the first band where 5 MHz LTE carriers will be deployed. No limitations from regulators, LTE can be deployed straight away.
- 2.5 GHz spectrum auctions still outstanding in most countries. Good for going beyond 5 MHz carriers
- 900 MHz band: Maybe some deployments of 5 MHz carriers or less. Good for in-house coverage but the band is heavily used for GSM today so it's difficult to clean up enough space for a meaningful LTE deployment without running into congestion issues. It might get better as more people get 3G phones and some of voice and data traffic currently running over GSM in the 900 MHz band will start flowing over 3G in the 2.1 GHz band. That reduces the load, hence, it might be possible for carriers to clear some spectrum for LTE, if they haven't opted for UMTS 900 deployment, which is available today.
- 800 MHz band (Digital Dividend): Strong push in Europe at the moment to free the same bandwidth in all member countries. First trials have started to bring high speed Internet to rural areas with HSPA and LTE.
- Verizon will deploy LTE in the 700 MHz band and has a single 10 MHz carrier available. That's not much. The spectrum has been assigned, so it can be deployed straight away.
- According to the presentation of NTT DoCoMo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, they will also deploy LTE in the 2.1 GHz band, replacing one of their UMTS carriers with LTE at the beginning.
- Not sure
Unfortunately, it does not end here, 3GPP has lots of additional frequency bands defined for LTE. So fracturization is likely to increase. As always, comments, additions, etc. are very welcome!