By the Blouin News Technology staff

FEATURE: The progression of LTE

by in Enterprise Tech.

A 4G LTE mast built in a rural location. Getty Images

A 4G LTE mast built in a rural location. Getty Images

As mobile speeds and high-quality network access expands around the world, it’s worth taking a look at how global cell speeds are evolving. While some of the planet still runs on 2G, with 3G as the acceptable network for many in places with burgeoning mobile networks, 4G has become the standard in countries with high levels of mobile development. 4G LTE is a term often referred to by telcos to indicate high-speed networks, but it’s important to understand just what LTE is when looking at how networks around the world are building out. LTE is more of a standard of 4G than it is an actual mobile technology; think of it as the way cellular technology evolves to get to optimal 4G speeds, or the label for technology that is developed to provide or attain 4G. Hence, what it stands for: Long Term Evolution. And projects with LTE — although the concept has been around for a decade — are expanding in various countries to enhance current 4G systems.

Nokia announced on Friday that it has struck a deal with China Mobile to significantly influence and aid in the LTE build-out of China Mobile’s 4G plans. Nokia’s contract with China Mobile targets expanding China Mobile’s 4G network that it has been working on for years, and will continue to rollout through 2015/2016. The $1 billion deal will provide LTE, 2G/3G/4G core networks, software and professional services, network planning, implementation and maintenance, and support. China Mobile wants to deploy 1 million TD-LTE (Time division Long Term Evolution, a variant of LTE) base stations by the end of this year. Both companies are also looking ahead to 5G.

And telcos in various regions are looking at the possibility for the internet of things to interact with 4G. While IoT is still in its nascent stages — especially reaching consumers — it is very much a concept that tech companies have embraced and that telcos are planning for in terms of all the new devices that will connect to each other across their networks. Much work is left to do in terms of setting a standard for IoT and even beginning to think about connecting the millions — if not billions — of devices that will be a part of the internet of things, but Verizon says that the internet of things will run on the same networks that smartphones do. Reports detail a Verizon executive divulging that the plethora of devices that will arrive with the expansion of IoT will run on LTE and eventually 5G networks.

MediaTek, a global chip designer, has announced that it will meet its target to ship 150 million LTE chips this year. EE Times reports that, during the company’s Q3 financial call, MediaTek Chief Financial Officer David Ku said that the company will probably ship 95 million to 105 million smartphone chips during the current Q4, of which more than half will be LTE products. MediaTek is looking toward countries like India that still have a long way to go towards 4G saturation.

Indeed, businesses in LTE have their work cut out for them in terms of branching into those regions that are still building out 4G networks. Both domestic and foreign network operators are expanding in countries like India where much of the country is still on 3G. For example, U.K.-based Vodafone announced this month that it will be launching 4G services in Kolkata and Mumbai by the end of 2015. The balance in these markets is also determined by what types of devices are available. If 4G is available, it doesn’t do a user any good if no mobile phone is available to operate on such a network. But tons of 4G-capable smartphones are designed to be lower-cost these days, and they are proliferating wildly in markets like India’s. While 4G LTE still has a way to go in some regions, step by step it becomes the norm as the world looks ahead to 5G.