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Despite the global economic recession, numerous cell phone network operators are ready to deploy the next-generation networks already next year.

The tally of wireless operators committed to deploying 4G (LTE, long term evolution) networks and offering LTE-based services to their subscribers in 2010 has climbed to at least 12, according to a major new study from ABI Research. By the following year nearly 34 million users worldwide are forecast to subscribe to the new ultra-fast data services, which promise speeds rivaling those available via cable or DSL. This contradicts other predictions that economic slowdown will also slowdown deployment of 4G networks.

“Spectrum availability is the primary factor impacting deployment plans. In countries where telecommunications regulators are making appropriate spectrum available, many operators have announced plans to launch LTE. These include the U.S., Sweden, China, and others. Where no such spectrum allocations exist, operators are postponing LTE plans,” said senior analyst Nadine Manjaro from ABI Research.

The first operators intending to deploy LTE include Verizon Wireless, MetroPCS Wireless, and U.S. Cellular in the United States; NTT-DOCOMO and KDDI in Japan; TeliaSonera, Tele2 and Telenor in Europe; and the world’s largest operator, China Mobile, which intends to launch in 2011. KT and SK Telecom are expected to launch in Korea 2010, but there has been little fanfare so far.

These commitments are good news for the infrastructure equipment vendors. A few operators have already announced the contracts they have awarded. Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, and Starent are the winners of a major set of contracts from Verizon Wireless. In Japan, NTT-DOCOMO, in addition to tapping the world’s largest network infrastructure supplier, Ericsson, is also supporting local vendors NEC and Fujitsu.

TeliaSonera has chosen Ericsson and Huawei, while its fellow Scandinavian operators Tele2 and Telenor are also thought likely to settle on Huawei, which is proving a formidable competitor.

“The operators are looking for strong partners. Operators want to know their vendors be staying in business, that they’ll have the equipment ready early, and that they are financially strong enough to collaborate in developing new services and solutions,” added Manjaro.

Tags: 4G, LTE, Ericsson, TeliaSonera, 3G, Verizon Wireless, MetroPCS Wireless, U.S. Cellular, NTT-DOCOMO, KDDI

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