Mobile operators are struggling to convert growing sales of LTE devices into 4G contracts, with a fewer subscribers choosing to upgrade than the switch from 2G to 3G a decade ago.
Research firm ABI Research states total sales of 4G mobile devices hit 103 million in 2012, with smartphones accounting for 91 million. The firm believes momentum in 4G device sales is growing, fuelled by demand for devices including Apple’s iPhone 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy range.
While the firm notes operators are currently finding it hard to convince users to upgrade their contract - the conversion rate is currently below the rough one to one ratio achieved during the 2G to 3G switch -, research director Phil Solis predicts an upturn over the next two years, and solid growth through 2017. “[W]e are anticipating 785 million LTE subscribers, up from 58 million at the end of 2012,” he says.
Those subscribers are tipped to generate $1.4 billion (€1 billion) in annual service revenues, Solis predicts.
ABI’s research points to the smartphone remaining the most common LTE device in the coming years. Sales of compatible USB dongles hit 6 million in 2012, and media tablets 3.3 million.