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Digitimes Research: Mobile operators looking for alternatives from unlicensed spectrum technology
Benson Wu, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei

With the popularity of the LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) networks growing at a pace slower than expected in part due to the difficulty in securing sufficient spectrum resources, a growing number of telecom operators including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Vodafone, Deutsche Telecom, NTT Docomo and China Mobile, have paid more attention to the development of unlicensed spectrum technologies and related applications, according to Digitimes Research.

While the number of new subscribers to 4G LTE services globally is expected to still hit a new high in 2017, the overall growth of subscribers to 4G LTE services has been slowing down, said Digitimes Research.

In particular, the number of LTE-A networks in use, which are being implemented since mid-2011, accounted for only 33% of total LTE networks as of the third quarter of 2017, registering an increase of only 12pps compared to the same period of 2014.

Digitimes Research believes that a lack of an effective and profitable business model for data services by mobile operators and an insufficient supply of 4G spectrum resources has resulted in lower-than-expected popularity of the LTE-A networks. Some iconic 4G LTE operators in the US, Japan, China and Korea have seen stagnant or even declining earnings from related sectors although their 4G revenues have continued to grow.

Furthermore, some countries are still operating 2G, 3G and 4G networks simultaneously, which also limits spectrum resources available for 4G LTE services, delaying the deployments of LTE-A networks.

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