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LTE Subscriptions Worldwide to Grow to More than 1.3 Billion by the end of 2017

Research and consultancy firm IDATE has released the latest edition of its dedicated White Paper: “LTE 2014 – Markets & Trends” to coincide with the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (24-27 February 2014).

As of mid-2013 there were more than 130 million LTE subscriptions worldwide, compared to 69 million at the end of 2012. The 100 million mark was passed in June 2013, with the US, Japan and South Korea leading the pack. More than 54% of LTE subscriptions in mid-2013 were in the US, with Verizon Wireless supplying the majority of them. The operator had covered 96% of the US population at that time. 200 commercial LTE networks – both FDD and TDD as of mid-2013: only 20 TD-LTE networks and 180 LTE FDD networks. LTE-Advanced was launched in the second half of 2013 in South Korea. The top three LTE operators are Verizon Wireless, AT&T and NTT Docomo.

Biggest LTE Markets

Biggest LTE markets (as of June 2013)

Among the many effects of the growth of LTE on the telecom sector, three of the most momentous according to IDATE are:

1) LTE and its developments are likely to provide the industry with the opportunity to make good on promises to consumers over the innovation potential of access, not only for smartphones and the latest social media service. It will mean managing services tiered by quality and speed in a way that is clear to consumers, and accepted by internet companies. The rollout of LTE is also a good time for operators to redefine their business models for the internet era.

2) The price wars that have broken out in some markets, not least across Europe, reduce competition to the single parameter of price, which makes it difficult to sell different levels of quality. This is weighing on both margins and capex. The LTE era is likely to also be the era of market consolidation in the form of M&A and broad infrastructure sharing agreements – albeit under terms set by competition authorities and sector-specific regulation;

3) This consolidation will not remain confined to the wireless sector, and is already encompassing mergers with cable companies and wireline telcos. Ultra high-speed mobile systems require small cells and have massive backhauling needs. In addition to the expected interleaving of fixed and mobile infrastructures, the wisdom of bundles that include wireline and wireless services is becoming clear. All of which points to an entire industry that will need to be overhauled in the coming years.

Main LTE trends highlighted by the report:

  • 119 million LTE subscriptions as of mid-2013 in the top 10 markets. Close to 130.5 million LTE subscriptions worldwide.
  • Total LTE revenue in 2013 estimated at €57 billion.
  • Rapid growth of LTE coverage in South Korea (100%) and the US.
  • IDATE forecasts more than 1,313 million LTE subscriptions worldwide, by the end of 2017.
  • Close to 450 mobile operators have committed to launching LTE.
  • Close to 1,000 LTE devices as of mid-2013.
  • Already 19 LTE frequency bands in use in Q2 2013.
  • TD-LTE is still an emerging ecosystem with only 2 million subscriptions at the end of 2013.
  • Video represents close to 60% of LTE traffic.
  • LTE is also used for fixed services.

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International Community Manager, GMIC