With an estimated 12 million LTE subscribers globally, the 3GPP technology has pulled away from WiMAX to become the dominant next-generation mobile broadband technology. Guy Daniels reports.
According to a new report from research specialists Maravedis, the worldwide LTE subscriber base nearly doubled in size quarter-on-quarter to reach 12.02 million subscribers worldwide by the end of Q4 2011. The 92 per cent increase over Q3 2011 was in stark contrast to the mere 14 per cent annual growth of WiMAX subscribers.
At the end of 2011, 54 operators worldwide had launched LTE commercially, 19 of them during the fourth quarter. Cintia Garza, team leader of the Maravedis ‘4GCounts’ reports, believes an additional 224 major mobile operators have committed to launching the LTE in the future, predominantly the FDD variant – 193 of those with FDD-LTE and 31 with TD-LTE:
“Maravedis anticipates that 469 million LTE subscribers will be active by 2016 of which 25 per cent, or 118 million, will be TD-LTE users and the rest (75 per cent or 350 million) will be FDD-LTE.”
With US operators AT&T and Verizon (mainly) adopting the 700MHz band, the majority of available devices available today also operate in that band (Just look at the controversy surrounding Apple’s new iPad, which was originally advertised as supporting LTE globally, before Apple suddenly amended its sales small print – surely they were aware of the different LTE specifications…?).
However, Cintia Garza says this will eventually change, and that 2.6GHz – in combination with 800MHz and 1,800MHz – will be the dominant bands for future deployments:
“We believe, however, that the number of devices covered in the 2.6 GHz band will soon exceed the devices deployed in the 700MHz. The 2.6GHz has been widely allocated for mobile broadband across the world in both FDD and TD-LTE modes. We believe that multimode and multi-frequency devices will gradually become the norm.”
The company reported that NSN-Motorola gained the most new LTE contracts in Q4 with a 26 per cent share, followed by Huawei with 23 per cent and Alcatel-Lucent with 12 per cent.
Informa Telecoms & Media adds that the North American LTE market added 2 million new subscriptions in Q4 to finish the year with 5.3 million subscriptions. According to principal analyst Mike Roberts, this makes it the leading region in the world for LTE with 71 per cent of global LTE subscriptions:
“To put the two million LTE net additions into context, the much larger US HSPA market added 5.4 million subscriptions in fourth quarter 2011, and the US CDMA market added 2.8 million. This shows that growth in the US mobile market is rapidly shifting to LTE.”
The 4G Americas association reports that HSPA mobile broadband technologies in North America passed 100 million connections by the end of 2011. When looking at the whole family of 3GPP-supported mobile broadband access technologies, the association president Chris Pearson expects the whole Americas region – including Latin America – to have more than 250 million mobile broadband subscriptions by the end of 2012, increasing each year to exceed 700 million subscriptions by 2016.
“Before the end of this year, more than one billion total subscriptions will be achieved for wireless technologies and the 3GPP family of technologies will comprise 78 per cent of the market. The shift has been gradual over the last ten years, when GSM represented a small ten percent of the market. With the growth of GSM, HSPA and LTE, the US has become the global leader for advanced technologies and Latin America is quickly adopting these technologies as well.”
The associations says that Latin America has 72 commercial deployments of HSPA to date in 31 countries, and of those, 32 have been upgraded to HSPA+ in 20 countries. In addition, there are five commercial LTE networks in Latin America and 300,000 LTE connections are expected by the end of 2012. North America now has eight commercial LTE networks.
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