Published on: 2nd Dec 2014
A new Market Data forecast from ABI Research expects the number of smartphones with Category 9 or Category 10 LTE modems, which enable mobile broadband speeds in the downlink of up to 450 Mbps, to reach 64 million in 2019.
These devices are not expected to be widely available in the marketplace before the end of 2016.
Last week Qualcomm unveiled its Gobi 9×45, the first mobile modem to support these speeds. However, enabled smartphones are unlikely to hit the market before 3Q 2015 at the earliest. “During the same period last year, Qualcomm unveiled its Gobi 9×35 chip, a Category 6 modem with download speeds of up to 300 Mbps. To date, this chip has only been embedded to selected versions of some commercially available smartphones targeted at the Korean market,” said Malik Saadi, a Practice Director at ABI Research.
Category 10 modems are targeted at devices supporting at least 3 downlink (3DL) LTE Carrier Aggregation (CA) of up to 3×20 MHz 3GPP-approved channel combinations across various LTE bands and modes. 3GPP has been busy defining various 3DL LTE CA in recent quarters. The number of 3GPP work items dedicated to various 3DL inter-band and intra-band LTE combinations has reached 57 in 2Q 2014, 34 of which are targeted at the North American market.
Due to the nature of spectrum licensing in the United States, often based on 10 MHz bandwidth chunks, 3DL LTE CA networks will be largely supported by Category 6 devices in the coming 3 years. “North American consumers are unlikely to enjoy broadband speeds exceeding 300 Mbps anytime in the near future, meaning that there are no immediate incentives for operators in this region to deploy devices with Category 10 modems unless they are offered at a similar price of those supporting Category 6,” added Saadi.
In Europe, LTE penetration is still below 14%, so operators in this region are focused on migrating subscribers to LTE rather than upgrading their networks to LTE-Advanced at a large scale, notably 3DL LTE CA.
Korean and Chinese operators are likely to be the first to launch 3DL LTE CA networks enabling up to 450 Mbps. Just in the last 6 months, Chinese operators sponsored six new 3GPP work items targeted at 3DL LTE CA, the majority of which will support TDD-FDD inter-mode LTE CA.