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3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE)

Coming to the point, unfortunately, we are still a few years away from the concept of a global phone. LTE phones and tablets that are currently being designed support only limited roaming. Technically, the primary reason is spectrum fragmentation. There are more than 30 different bands authorized by the 3GPP alliance which can be used for FDD and TDD-LTE. Different countries have allocated different frequency bands for LTE. Verizon and AT&T are using 700 MHz in USA while LightSquared plans to use the 1.4 GHz L band for their hybrid satellite and terrestrial LTE network. Some other geographic regions along with their popular LTE spectrum bands are India – 2.3 GHz, Japan – 800 MHz and 1.5 GHz, Germany – 1.8 GHz and 2.6 GHz, Australia – 700 MHz and 1.8 GHz, Russia – 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz, Brazil – 2.6 GHz, Korea – 850 MHz, UK – 2.6 GHz and Eastern Europe – 450 MHz. Within the US only, AT&T and Verizon own separate spectrum blocks in 700 MHz prompting AT&T to state recently that their initial LTE devices would not roam onto the Verizon network. From a business perspective too, the two big providers could be unwilling to strike a roaming deal. Incongruous spectrum bands make it difficult for the chip manufacturers and hardware suppliers to come up with a phone which enjoys global network support despite the operators following the same technology. With a lack of clarity on which band will dominate, the chipset suppliers will have to manufacture customized phones catering to a particular country or a carrier. Apart from obstructing the idea of global roaming, this would reduce economies of scale and vendor margins while increasing both the distribution logistics complexity and the device cost for the customer. To get ahead of the competition, the chipmakers will have to predict the market demand which can prove detrimental to their business. In addition to above, we must also remember that any LTE phone will have to support 2G, 3G and Wi-Fi bands. This could take the number of total bands in a phone to 10 or more. Experts say that technologically this is possible but it would have a negative effect on the battery life, handset performance and the ability of the phone to switch between different networks and frequencies.

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