In a May 2012 ABI Research Insight, I talked about the rapid rate of 4G LTE population coverage roll-out in Korea. LG U+ commenced 4G services in December 2010, SKT in January 2011 and Korea Telecom in November 2011. LG U+ achieved 100% pops coverage by 3Q-2012 and its competitors were not far behind.
Korea has a population of 49.8 million, so 100% pops coverage is no small, mean feat but it is certainly remarkable that AT&T intends to take United States of America population coverage to 300 million by the end of 2014, which equates to 96.2% population coverage. Given not just the population size but also the territory of the USA, that is an ambitious target.
With such (potentially) universal 4G coverage, it does raise up an interesting scenario: single mode LTE… Right now mobile handsets contain a number of different radios. While the number of bands that need to be supported probably will not decline, the need to support such a variety of access technology schemes could come down. For example, there are three “iPhone 5” variants to serve the needs of their handset vendor global market. The “A1428” model supports UMTS, HSPA+, DC-HSDPA GSM, EDGE and LTE. While it is unlikely any time soon, that smartphones start ditching access technologies*, but if the handset only needed to support LTE, it would help to bring down the cost of the mobile handset.
Single mode LTE could have a role to play with 4G-enabling a range of pervasive mobile computing and electronics scenarios. While we still raise an eyebrow at the thought of mobile cellular-enabled fridges and toasters, we probably have not seen the full potential of putting 4G radios inside gadgets around the home, the office and the outdoor environment. Single mode LTE could have a key role making pervasive computing a reality.
(* The access technologies they are needed for international roaming, plus they even have a role to play as the end-user moves around their city, home and travel/commuting. Where the link budget for the transmission is weakened, the handset will fall back on a slower access technology to maintain the communications link.)