Since the earliest LTE deployments, the mobile industry has been on the lookout for the tipping point where the number of subscribers to LTE networks would surpass the number of subscribers to WiMAX networks, particularly in countries where WiMAX has had a strong foothold. For all the talk about how WiMAX still has a long life, and how WiMAX and LTE might be even be positioned as complimentary, it has been hard to ignore the fact LTE is gaining ground.
That point finally appears to have been reached in at least three countries--the U.S., South Korea and Japan. In each of these countries, the number of LTE subscribers surpassed the number of WiMAX subscribers starting in the fourth quarter of 2011, and again in the first quarter and second quarter of this year, according to ABI Research.
For now, sign-ups to TD-LTE networks are further behind because of the relatively low number of smaller operators with active networks, but subscribership to these networks should ramp up toward the end of next year and in 2014, according to the ABI report, "4G Subscribers, Devices, and Networks."
Phil Solis, research director at ABI Research, also notes that in mid-2014, even the number of TD-LTE subscribers will have pushed past WiMAX subscriber totals--the point at WiMAX sign-ups will have begun what is likely to be a slow, but inevitable, decline.
LTE handsets have led the way as the primary LTE device for capturing subscribers and controlled 77 percent of the LTE device market last year, according to ABI. However, LTE external modems and media tablets with embedded LTE modules have started to become more of a factor this year. However, ABI predicts LTE handsets will surpass 80-percent of device shipments during 2016.
- read the ABI release
The WiMAX Forum is positioning WiMAX and LTE as complimentary
ABI foresaw 61 million 4G handset shipments for this year