Study: Global LTE subscriber base nearly doubled in 4Q11

LTE adoption is picking up steam as the worldwide LTE subscriber base reached 12.02 million after growing 92 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a new report from Maravedis.

LTE adoption dramatically outpaced that of WiMAX, which grew its subscriber base by only 14 percent in 4Q11. The combined Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) and WiMAX subscriber base will continue to grow slowly, reaching 35 million at the end of 2016, according to the latest issue of Maravedis' 4GCounts Quarterly Report.

The momentum is clearly with LTE as 54 operators worldwide had launched LTE commercially at the end of 2011, with 19 of those launching in the fourth quarter. An additional 224 major mobile operators have committed to LTE, with 193 operators planning FDD-LTE networks and 31 planning TD-LTE. "Maravedis anticipates that 469 million LTE subscribers will be active by 2016 of which 25 percent, or 118 million, will be TD-LTE users and the rest (75 percent, or 350 million) will be FDD-LTE," said Cintia Garza, 4GCounts team leader, in a statement.

Asia Pacific is leading the world in TD-LTE trials, with 18 operators testing the technology during 4Q11. There were five TD-LTE trials in Europe during the period. Maravedis predicts large TD-LTE deployments in China and India will drive substantial economies of scale this year, yet the firm said large volume production of TD-LTE handsets will not start until 2013.

During 4Q11, the combined Nokia Siemens Networks and Motorola snared 26 percent of LTE contracts, while Huawei came in a close second with 23 percent. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) garnered 12 percent of LTE contracts during the quarter and is expected to land further LTE infrastructure contracts in Latin America, potentially in Chile, Colombia and Brazil, said Maravedis.

The consultancy also noted that the top 50 LTE operators reported a total installed base of 59,000 base station sectors at the end of 4Q11, up from 37,000 base station sectors installed at the end of 3Q11. 

Though the majority of LTE devices being sold today support the 700 MHz band, which is being employed by U.S. operators Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) for their LTE networks, that trend will quickly shift. "The number of devices covered in the 2.6 GHz band will soon exceed the devices deployed in the 700 MHz," said Garza, adding that multimode and multi-frequency devices will gradually become the norm.

The 2.6 GHz band, in combination with 800 MHz and 1800 MHz, are expected to become the dominant bands for LTE deployments. Maravedis said that by 2016, smartphones and tablets will dominate the 4G device market, accounting for 55 percent and 15 percent of the total 4G device market share, respectively.

 For more:
- see this Maravedis release
- see this Billing World article
- see this Telecompetitor article

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