LTE is the fastest-developing system in the history of mobile telecommunications, with 180 operators around the world investing in the technology, but a lack of regulatory clarity is the main obstacle holding back Latin America, Alan Hadden, president of the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), told BNamericas.
The GSA's most recent report confirmed 128 operator commitments to deploy commercial LTE systems in 52 countries, and a further 52 "pre-commitment trials" or pilots in an additional 18 countries.
By comparing the number of operator commitments six months and 12 months after the first commercial launches for HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+ and LTE, the latter is the fastest-developing mobile communications system technology ever, Hadden said.
"LTE technology has achieved maturity. Several networks have been launched; there are commitments and trials around the world. From a technical point of view it is understood. The market knows it has to go there and the markets that are really pressing ahead are those where regulatory conditions are clear. That's the only part that is missing in Latin America," Hadden said.
According to the GSA, Brazil, Colombia and Chile are the countries in the region that have made firm commitments to deploy commercial LTE networks, while Mexico, Peru and Argentina are at the pre-commitment or trial stage.
"Of course, we would expect a lot of those trials to lead to deployed commercial networks," the executive said, adding that countries in Latin America where European operators such as Telefonica (NYSE: TEF) are present are, naturally, going to benefit from the European experience.
"I think it's hard for network operators to commit to a commercial deployment in those markets where the regulatory position is not clear, the licensing is not completed, the terms of the licenses have not been discussed," he said.
Operators need to know "the spectrum is there, which bands, when it is coming, under what terms it's being released, if there are any coverage obligations and so on."
"In other parts of the world, those developments have happened; they've had those discussions. The licenses are issued. In parts of Europe and Asia it is the same. I think that in Latin America that is one of the essential elements to allow operators to combine the technical knowledge with the regulatory certainty that will then lead to more commitment," he said.