Global mobile capex is expected to grow 9% in 2012 as operators switch over from LTE trial to full-scale commercial launch. ABI Research forecasts that capex will hit $111.1 billion () for the year.
Capex is showing signs of bouncing back in the first half of the year, after operators trimmed their budgets in the final months of 2011, resulting in a weak final quarter.
The expected capex growth will likely be led by renewed spending on radio access network (RAN) infrastructure, partly as a result of LTE rollouts.
As a result of increased data demands, operators have been taking the opportunity to review their macro RAN architectures, and are increasingly choosing to beef up their rooftop and street-level small cells and distributed base station antenna deployments.
The Asia-Pacific region is accounting for the lion's share of mobile capex growth, ABI research said. China Mobile, for example, plans to deploy 200,000 TD-LTE base stations by 2013, up from 900 which have been deployed as part of its trial.
The operator currently spends 57% of its annual capex on RAN equipment, and 18% of in its transmission and backbone network.
Spending in Europe has by contrast been soft, but AIBI Research practice director Aditya Kaul said there are signs of a turnaround.
“European capex has been on the back foot relative to North America and Asia-Pacific due to weak macroeconomic factors and regulatory issues, however by 2013 we expect to start to seeing some of the European capex come back as LTE upgrades roll on Europe wide,” Kaul said.