Worldwide shipments of mobile base stations will increase 14 percent in 2011 despite continued sluggishness in the global economy, according to a new report from ABI Research, indicating that carriers will continue to try and keep up with surging data demands.
The report also said that there will be increased base station orders for 2012 and beyond. ABI noted that the surge in base station shipments is primarily being driven by increasing mobile data traffic in the United States and China. In China, the three main operators are expected to double their total number of 3G subscribers by year-end.
U.S. carriers are building out their next-generation networks, which require new base station installations. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), which plans to deploy LTE to 185 million POPs in 175 markets by year-end, has already deployed 20,000 to 30,000 base stations to support its network buildout over the past 16 months. Separately, AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) is gearing up its own LTE deployment, with plans to cover 15 markets and 70 million POPs by year-end. Meanwhile, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) has started making progress on its Network Vision network modernization plan, which involves the deployment of new, multi-mode base stations.
Wireless networks in the United States are operating at 80 percent of total capacity, the highest of any region in the world, according to a July report prepared by investment bank Credit Suisse. The firm argued that wireless carriers likely will need to increase their spending on infrastructure to meet users' growing demands for mobile data.
The report said that, globally, average peak network utilization rates are at 65 percent, and that peak network utilization levels will reach 70 percent within the next year. The proprietary report was based on a survey of 38 "key decision makers" at wireless operators globally.
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Correction, Oct. 5, 2011: This article originally incorrectly referred to an ABI Research report on base station spending. The report is on base station shipments.