LTE is continuing to gain momentum, and for some operators it cannot come soon enough, states the latest report from Analysys Mason entitled Operator strategies for network evolution: the road to LTE, which details how wireless data traffic will increase tenfold in developed markets in the period to 2015. However, there are many roads to a data-optimised RAN and LTE is only one component.

“LTE can provide data at a sixth of the price of basic W-CDMA. In the long term, it may be the only way to profitably manage the increasing demand for data traffic,” says Helen Karapandžić, co-author and Analyst at Analysys Mason.

LTE offers cost savings and performance improvements, like reduced latency, which will enhance growing data services such as video, TV and gaming. It also offers a full evolution path. LTE is only just at the beginning of its product lifecycle.

LTE is expected to bring opportunities, but the report notes that it also represents a huge challenge for operators and that there are many solutions to the problem of defining the new access network architecture. Existing basic GSM, HSPA and W-CDMA will all have a role to play in the forseeable future.

“LTE will represent a valuable opportunity for mobile operators to differentiate their mobile data offering, but the challenge is for operators to successfully integrate LTE into their existing operations,”says Karapandžić.

Senior Analyst and co-author Terry Norman points out that while LTE will offer great benefits to consumers, it will bring about a big change in the way operators and vendors do business. Integrating LTE into the existing operator access infrastructure will also have a very important operational impact if the operator is to make the most of what LTE offers.

“Operators face complex strategic choices,” says Norman. “There are as many roads to a data-optimised RAN as there are operators. Spectrum availability, their legacy infrastructure and demand for data services will all contribute to the operators’ strategies.”

The latest report, Operator strategies for network evolution: the road to LTE, explores the four key factors that help to formulate operator deployment strategy: technology, spectrum, data growth and device availability.

Key findings from Analysys Mason’s research into LTE and mobile data traffic include:

• Network operators are likely to begin LTE deployments in 2010, with most deployments following within 2–3 years.

• LTE-enabled devices will be available from 2H 2009.

• Wireless data traffic will increase tenfold in developed markets by 2010.