Aircom launched their LTE cost calculator and published estimated capex investments facing a tier one mobile operator in the first year of rollout in each of four regions. The figures will of course vary by region, the legacy equipment operators have in place and the spectrum they have available. The estimated cost in the US came to $1.78bn, Europe $880m the Middle East $337m and Asia Pacific lowest with $232m.
The economic crisis is the main reason for operators seeking to limit CAPEX committments, but this is also leading to operators taking a differnent approach to LTE network roll out, with network sharing cited as an example alongside the automation of key optimisation processes through the roll out of self-organising networks (SON) and the deployment of femtocells to cost effectively provide macro network offload capabilities as well as indoor coverage. Operators don't want to deploy LTE unless it can be shown that it will save them money in the long term and selling LTE to shareholders can't be easy right now. HSPA is becoming an increaslingly attractive interim solution.
LTE has the potential to become the first radio access technology that is used by all the world's major mobile operators, which means that it could eventually gain massive economies of scale. Some operators may be thinking that it might be worth waiting for the costs to go down before deploying LTE. If the operator's current base stations were deployed fairly recently, they may also be able to move to HSPA+ with just a software upgrade. Operators with a relatively new HSPA network are likely to upgrade it to HSPA+ to ensure they maximise their ROI on HSPA and again this makes it difficult to justify the cost of LTE.