With LTE networks now being deployed in 12 countries around the world, ABI Research claims that sufficient momentum is being generated to push subscriber numbers to 16 million by the end of 2011.
The research firm points to the increasing range of business models now being supported by operators to promote the uptake of LTE. T-Mobile Germany, for example, has launched its "Call & Surf Via Funk" service priced at €35 per month for areas without ADSL broadband access, while NTT DoCoMo has monthly LTE tariffs ranging between €8 and €53 in an effort to attract a wide assortment of users.
Also of note, claims ABI, is that these early-stage LTE deployments are not only happening in mature markets. TeliaSonera, which has been a keen advocate and pioneer of LTE, has started rolling out a service with Ucell in Uzbekistan, albeit that the operator only has 5.4 million subscribers today.
Commenting on this growing enthusiasm for LTE, ABI's research director, Phil Solis, said that a key success factor for LTE uptake is LTE smartphone adoption. "The shift to 4G differs from the shift to 3G because of smartphones' capabilities," he said in a statement. "In the US, people are actively looking for 4G as a handset feature, spurred by heavy marketing of 4G smartphones. Sprint's success with WiMAX smartphones is an indicator of the scale Verizon Wireless and AT&T can achieve with LTE smartphones this year."
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