The emerging LTE segment has not been hit by this year’s dire economic conditions, says research firm Infonetics.
Fourteen operators have committed to LTE rollouts next year, up from 10 in March, the research firm said. It predicts the LTE network gear market will be worth more than $5 billion by 2013, dominated by E-UTRAN macrocell (eNodeB) deployments.
It also expects the LTE customer base to top 72 million by 2013, mostly users with laptops, netbooks or dongles, with the first smartphones expected to hit the market after 2011.
In another forecast, Informa Telecoms and Media said Japan would account for more than half of Asia's 14.4 million LTE subscribers by 2015.
NTT DoCoMo, Japanese rival eMobile and China Mobile will be the first to launch LTE in the region, Informa said, with Hong Kong's CSL likely to follow soon after.
But rollouts in the region may be hindered by delays, as Japan and Hong Kong are so far the only Asian countries to have awarded spectrum for LTE.
Regulators in other nations are scrambling to free up enough spectrum, Informa added. Even in Japan, there is not enough 2100MHz spectrum available to support DoCoMo's full LTE plans, so it will use its newly allocated 1.5GHz for LTE from 2010.
“It’s no longer a case for operators whether they will pursue LTE, or not,” says Informa senior analyst Nicole McCormick said.
“Rather, Asian operators are in the midst of a spectrum grab for LTE. Operators are asking not only `what spectrum is coming up for release for LTE?’, but `how can I repurpose my existing spectrum for LTE?’”