LTE drives usage and even leads some users to shun Wi-Fi, report says

LTE users in the world's most advanced mobile markets consume considerably more data than 3G users, even eschewing Wi-Fi networks in order to stick with their LTE connections, according to new analysis from GSMA Intelligence.

The report cites South Korea, which has 100 percent population coverage with LTE and whose LTE penetration as a percentage of total connections surpassed 50 percent during 2013's fourth quarter. Market leader SK Telecom has seen its average monthly data consumption per user increase significantly since it introduced LTE during the second half of 2011.

"Average monthly data consumption of its 4G users approximately doubled between Q4 2011 and Q1 2013, rising from 1.1 GB to 2.1 GB, while data usage via HSPA remained flat," said GSMA Intelligence. "This means that the operator's total 3G/4G data traffic almost doubled in the space of 15 months, despite only a 2 percent growth in total connections," it added.

Although South Korea's LTE users are now shying away from Wi-Fi, the nation's operators are nonetheless attracting higher revenue from their LTE customers. For example, SK Telecom's LTE ARPU of about $43 during 2013's third quarter was 32 percent higher than its blended ARPU. Further, more than 70 percent of SK Telecom's new and upgrading LTE customers are opting for its higher-priced tariffs, said GSMA Intelligence.

Operators in the United States are seeing similar trends. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) announced that 38 percent of retail customers connected to its LTE network were responsible for 65 percent of total data traffic during the third quarter of 2013. The operator's third-quarter retail postpaid average revenue per account (ARPA) of $155.74 was up 7.1 percent year-over-year and has grown by 21 percent since Verizon launched LTE in late 2010, the report said.

Similarly, GSM Intelligence noted that Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) COO Jerry Elliot said during August 2013 that an LTE customer at Leap generates twice the usage of a 3G customer. Leap's ARPU for the third quarter reached $45.45, up from $41.94 in the year-earlier period.

For more:
- see this GSM Intelligence webpage

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