Report: LTE data traffic to skyrocket 200% in 2013

Total global LTE data traffic will increase at more than twice the rate as 3G data traffic this year, according to a new report from ABI Research.

According to the report, LTE traffic will grow 207 percent year-over-year in 2013 compared to 99 percent for 3G data traffic. The surge will be driven in part by the maturation of LTE deployments in developed markets. For example, ABI notes that Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) said  in January that almost 50 percent of its data load now travels over its LTE network. That figure is up significantly from October, when Verizon said that 35 percent of its data traffic moved over its LTE network.

Overall though, LTE traffic still presents a fraction of all mobile data traffic worldwide and LTE deployments are still nascent in many markets outside of the United States, Japan and South Korea. Cisco found in a report released in February that in 2012 only 1 percent of global connections were 4G but that 1 percent drove 14 percent of all global mobile data traffic. By 2017, 4G connections will represent 10 percent of global connections but will generate 45 percent of the data traffic, Cisco predicted.

The number of LTE subscribers worldwide is rising rapidly, though, and will continue to do so through the next several years, according to a January report from IHS iSuppli, which predicts that the number of LTE users worldwide will hit 198.1 million in 2013. Over the next few years LTE adoption is expected to surge to 1 billion users in 2016, the research firm said. Cisco predicts the number of 4G connections worldwide will steadily rise from 60.4 million in 2012 to 135.2 million in 2013 and up to around 992 million in 2017.

Yet in spite of the predicted surge in LTE users and traffic, one network infrastructure vendor does not anticipate a massive uptick in mobile network investment from carriers, as it keeps capital expenditure budgets tight and focuses on Wi-Fi offloading to help deal with rising data traffic. Nokia Siemens Networks, which has restructured its business to focus solely on mobile broadband, expects to see a flat market this year. 

"Despite strong underlying fundamentals, particularly continued data traffic growth, we expect the mobile broadband market to be relatively flat, as operators maintain tight control of both capital and operating expenses and macroeconomic conditions remain uncertain," Chairman Jesper Ovesen wrote in his introduction to the company's annual report, according to Total Telecom. "As a result of this market environment, we expect competition to remain challenging."

For more:
- see this ABI release
- see this Total Telecom article

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