The GSM Association has warned that the use of over 35 different spectrum bands for 4G services across the world will hinder the technology's development by making it almost impossible to roam on LTE networks when abroad.
The organisation's Wireless Intelligence division made the warning in its new Global LTE Network Forecasts and Assumptions report, explaining that there will be some 200 live LTE networks in use in over 70 nations by 2015.
Report author and senior GSMA analyst Joss Gillet said that phone manufacturers will be unable to ensure that devices can support so many different networks, creating a major barrier to the technology's evolution.
"Spectrum fragmentation has the potential to hinder global LTE roaming if device manufacturers are required to include support for many disparate frequencies in their devices," he said.
"Given the backwards compatibility already required for either HSPA or EV-DO [Evolution-Data Optimised] connectivity, we are unlikely to see a 'world' device in a handset form-factor soon."
This fragmentation will be due in part to the use of re-farmed networks, i.e. those previously used for other services, to ensure that operators can meet demands for LTE networks, Gillet added.
"Spectrum re-farming will grow in importance as an interim solution as operators await additional spectrum to be allocated by governments and regulators," he said.
"One-third of LTE operators will be unable to secure additional spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2,500MHz or 2,600MHz bands before 2016 at the earliest, which will further exacerbate data capacity issues and limit LTE coverage expansion plans."
Despite this, the report noted that the use of LTE networks is set to grow rapidly from a paltry seven million today to some 300 million by 2015.
However, the UK is unlikely to account for many of these users in 2015 as auctions for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum bands that will run the services will not occur until late 2012, and services are only set to start coming online in 2014.
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