With the growth in mobile data usage continuing unabated, an increasing number of operators are looking towards 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology to fulfil the need for wireless bandwidth, and one market in particular has seen a rapid take-up of LTE-based services. US telcos, particularly Verizon Wireless, have been trailblazers of the nascent LTE market. At the end of September 2011, Verizon Wireless had more than 3.1 million LTE subscribers, representing an incredible 60% of the worldwide total. US carriers’ rapid deployment of LTE contrasts sharply with their earlier deployment of 3G mobile technology. At the end of 2004, the United States had 175,000 3G subscribers, representing less than 1% of the global total.
According to figures from TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, there were 39 LTE networks live worldwide by mid-November 2011, more than half of which were launched in 2011. The number of LTE deployments will rise rapidly over the next two to three years, given that about 170 operators are already running trials, or have expressed interest in LTE as they await spectrum auctions. Meanwhile, the LTE gold rush looks set to marginalise mobile WiMAX, as LTE will achieve levels of coverage and economies of scale unmatched by WiMAX, especially now that major WiMAX operators such as Clearwire and Yota are planning migrations to LTE technology.
New forecasts from TeleGeography suggest that there will be more than 400 million LTE mobile subscribers by the end of 2016, up from just nine million at the end of 2011. “While the US has taken an early lead, the bulk of the growth over the next five years will come in Asia, which we project will account for almost half of LTE subscribers in 2016,” said TeleGeography analyst John Dinsdale. “Countries such as China, Japan and South Korea will lead the way, and are forecast to be among the top five markets globally in terms of subscribers.”
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