Global spending on wireless infrastructure is projected to grow 8.3% to $45.5 billion (€36.2 billion) this year, driven - unsurprisingly - by operators' LTE upgrades.
Research firm IHS forecasts the overall rate of growth will outpace the 7.7% increase in spending from 2011, but will slow over the next three years to around 3% per annum. Despite the predicted drop, the firm tips total annual carrier spending to top $50 billion by 2016.
LTE investments in Japan, South Korea and the US are the main force behind this year's projected growth. Total spending on 4G is up 132% this year to $8.6 billion. Operators’ 3.5G upgrades in China, India and other regions are also contributing to the increased spending. This segment is still projected to make up the bulk of spending, at around $34.4 billion.
But by next year, 4G spending is expected to hit $25.09 billion, overtaking 3.5G spending, which will decline to $20.9 billion.
“Carriers are making the investments on infrastructure in order to keep pace with growing data traffic, especially on the mobile side,” IHS director for consumer & communications Jagdish Rebello says.
Carriers are also continuing to develop intelligent networking architectures to keep up with bandwidth growth while preventing infrastructure spending from ballooning to extremes, the research firm notes.
For instance, several carriers in developed nations are commercially deploying networks of Wi-Fi hotspots, or teaming up with Wi-Fi service providers to provide coverage in metropolitan areas.