4G LTE mobile broadband to reach 220m subscribers by 2014

25 Mar 2013

Rapid uptake of 4G LTE mobile broadband technology in the next year will see the subscriber number doubling from an estimated 105m this year to 220m by 2014.

According to research from Juniper Research, 2012 was a breakthrough year for 4G in the countries where the technology has been deployed.

Deployment rates are gaining momentum and more subscribers will sign up in volume this year.

In Ireland, licenses for 4G were granted in November and rollouts have already commenced, with the first services expected to be offered in the coming month. In the UK, Ofcom awarded its licenses in recent weeks.

4G will have limited global reach up to 2014

Despite the progress of 4G, Juniper says 4G will have a very limited global reach.

However, embedding of LTE in consumer devices like Apple and Samsung smartphones will drive consumer take-up.

With LTE rollouts gaining momentum, primarily in developed markets, Juniper Research acknowledges that while migration to 4G is expected to follow an evolutionary path, there is a genuine opportunity for many operators in developing countries to completely bypass 3G and roll out 4G LTE directly.

This is especially the case in countries where spectrum has been already allotted, thereby saving cost and time. The Kenyan operator Yu recently announced it would skip 3G and deploy LTE directly.

The report found that TD-LTE (Time Division) will indeed play a significant role, especially in the emerging markets. FD-LTE (Frequency Division) and TD-LTE are two different standards of 4G LTE technology. TD-LTE is a cost-effective 4G solution that makes efficient use of the unpaired spectrum compared to FD-LTE, which requires paired spectrum.

Driven by China, Japan and India, TD-LTE will see an increased network roll out from other parts of the world. China Mobile announced a US$6.7bn investment in rolling out TD-LTE this year.

“Ultimately, using TD-LTE requires consideration of the available smartphone ecosystem and evaluation of dual-mode LTE chipsets. However, dual mode (TDD/FDD) terminals will soon become widely available and accessible for operators with TD spectrum,” noted report author Nitin Bhas.

“This means that device vendors, including Apple, will need to make versions available that work with TD-LTE if they are to increase its market share in other parts of the world, such as China.”

The report forecast that 4G LTE revenues are set to grow rapidly, reaching more than US$340bn by 2017 globally.

The vast majority of LTE revenues (almost 70pc) will be generated by North American and the Far Eastern and China markets.

4G image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years