Spending on radio access network infrastructure equipment is expected to grow just 3.4% in 2008 to â‚¬37.8 billion (US$53.9 billion) by the end of the year, a report from ABI Research said.
ABI Research also said the number of base stations to grow from 3.6 million in 2007 to 5.2 million in 2013.
In developed markets, mobile operators are looking to cut their underlying operating costs and secure competitive edge through the deployment of 3.5G technologies such as HSDPA and cdma2000 Rev A.
Furthermore the introduction of mobile internet devices such as RIM's Bold, Nokia's E71, Samsung's Omnia, and Apple's iPhone is boosting web-based traffic and email access.
Mid-tier devices are also contributing to congestion as they stimulate the adoption of messaging bundles, games and music downloads.
'Music, games and messaging are boosting the amount of network traffic,' senior analyst Nadine Manjaro, said. 'Hence the need for network upgrades.'
Carriers are looking further afield too. While such 3.5G technologies are helping carriers to roll out new applications and services, they are well aware that 4G technologies such as LTE and WiMAX will be needed to deliver any fundamental shift in the underlying cost of delivering Mbps.
In its latest survey of the radio access network marketplace, ABI Research pinpoints clear shifts towards LTE among the CDMA carrier community, complementing commitments from the W-CDMA carrier community. However spending on GSM-related infrastructure still remains strong. Carriers are investing in 3G and positioning for 4G but 'good ol' GSM' is not going away any time soon.