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LTE must overcome challenges to succeed as a next-generation broadband platform in rural areas, warns Analysys Mason
At an industry briefing in Dublin today, Rupert Wood, Principal Analyst at Analysys Mason, explained: "When considering how to deliver next-generation broadband to rural areas, operators have to weigh the long-term costs of an LTE-only approach against those of a more traditional fixed network. The lower costs and better performance of fibre-based broadband in large village clusters make it a better investment than LTE. Furthermore, LTE can initially have lower operating costs, but as data volumes grow these will overtake those of fibre-based broadband."
While all four Irish mobile network operators have launched or committed to launching LTE networks and associated higher-speed mobile broadband services, the extent of coverage to be provided in rural areas remains unclear. As part of the National Broadband Plan, the Irish government is currently undertaking a mapping exercise to determine those areas which will not receive next-generation broadband without public intervention.
"The business case for LTE in rural areas is better if usage is lower than would be typical on a monopoly infrastructure, but data caps and/or high prices may not be politically acceptable", noted Wood. The incumbent's case for LTE is significantly improved by opex savings if copper is decommissioned, but the underlying problem remains - the incremental cost of data transport on LTE is much higher than on fixed."
A further factor to be considered by operators in rural areas is the requirement for external antennae. "External antennae will be necessary in incumbent replacement scenarios", Wood told the briefing, "the additional cost of which weakens the case for LTE over fibre-based broadband".
Analysys Mason's report "LTE as a next-generation access platform in rural markets: cost-benefit analysis" is available for purchase from the link below: http://www.analysysmason.com/Research/Content/Reports/LTE-NGA-rural-markets-Jul2013-RDTW0
Link to press release online: http://www.analysysmason.com/About-Us/News/Press-releases1/LTE-rural-challenges-Oct2013/
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