A Capacity Comparison between LTE-Advanced CA and UMTS In Operational Networks Today

With LTE-Advanced Carrier Aggregation being deployed in 2014 it recently struck me that there's a big difference in deployed capacity between LTE and UMTS now. Most network operators have had two 5 MHz carriers deployed for quite a number of years now in busy areas. In some countries, some carriers have more spectrum and have thus deployed three 5 MHz carriers. I'd say that's rather the exception, though. On the LTE side, carriers with enough spectrum have deployed two 20 MHz carriers in busy areas and can easily extend that with additional spectrum in their possession as required. That's also a bit of an exception and I estimate that most carriers have deployed between 10 and 30 MHz today. In other words it's 15 MHz UMTS compared to 40 MHz LTE. Quite a difference and the gap is widening.

3 thoughts on “A Capacity Comparison between LTE-Advanced CA and UMTS In Operational Networks Today”

  1. If operators had the spectrum, why did they not deploy more UMTS carriers? Is it fundamentally cheaper to deploy two LTE carriers vs say four or more UMTS carriers in the same spectrum?

  2. Hi Dominic,

    from a timeline point, UMTS squeezed into the 2100 MHz band and also the 900 MHz band to some extent. More was not available. Once auctions for other bands were over, LTE was already far enough in its development cycle so nobody seriously considered pushing UMTS there and then to replace it by LTE.

    Economically there is perhaps an advantage for LTE as a single carrier can be up to 20 MHz, which perhaps (or perhaps also not these days) requires less hardware. But I think we passed the point of looking on it this way 🙂


  3. In Spain most operators have 4 UMTS carriers: 3 in 2100 and 1 in 900. Movistar could even have 2 bands in 900, as they have 15 MHz in this band (I assume they will keep 5 MHz for GSM).

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