Feature Article

December 06, 2012

North America Adds 19 Million LTE Subscriptions in 2012 - Just the Tip of the Iceberg!

Most of the LTE coverage we provide does one of two things - either it suggests that LTE deployments are growing at a rapid clip, or we focus on a variety of spectrum issues that seemingly place limits on carrier ability to deliver enough LTE to meet fast rising demand. Then there are scenarios where both might occur at the same time. The bottom line in any case is that LTE - at least through 2018, when a true generation of 4G networks (which means approximately four times more bandwidth than today's LTE delivers for both uplinks and downlinks) will begin to emerge - will dominate the wireless landscape for at least the next eight to 10 years.

We can anticipate that most new smartphones on the higher end of each manufacturer's models will be LTE-enabled. All of that capability will bring intense LTE demand that the carriers must meet. In addition to LTE there are other higher speed networks such as HSPA+ and HSPA (which is common in Europe). How critical will it be for the wireless carriers and the relevant government agencies to have their LTE ducks in a row as quickly as possible? One only needs to look at any set of currently available statistics here to understand the intense need for all parties to do so.

We'll warn you in advance - if you are the sort that eats up statistics read on. If stats make your eyes glaze over then just take our word for it - the high bandwidth demand and supply issue is one that looms over our heads, and we can only hope that the supply side (the carriers and the government agencies they must deal with) are able to deliver. The stats we highlight here come from Informa Telecoms & Media, a telecom research firm.

In Q3 2012 the North American market (which dominates in global LTE deployments) hit LTE subscriptions totaling 22.3 million. That number represents a net add of 19 million subscriptions year to year. As of today North America now contributes 51 percent of all global LTE connections. There are now 43.7 million LTE connections globally.

Informa reports the following global statistics were reported through Q3 2012:

·         6.4 billion total cellular connections now exist

·         5.8 billion 3G subscriptions (90 percent market share)

·         One billion HSPA-LTE mobile broadband subscriptions

·         478 commercial HSPA networks in 181 countries

·         242 HSPA+ networks in 119 countries

·         43.7 million LTE subscriptions

·         128 commercial LTE networks in 58 countries

Informa breaks out statistics across all global regions, but we will look only at what the North American in both the United States and Canada look like. North America and the likes of Japan and South Korea are the key high bandwidth markets generally speaking. For the United States and Canada Informa reports the following through the end of Q3 2012:

·         180.7 million 3G subscriptions representing 49 percent market share

·         139 million HSPA-LTE mobile broadband subscriptions

·         No. 1 in LTE subscriptions worldwide with 22.3 million LTE connections

·         Informa anticipates quarterly additions of 6.9 million LTE connections in 2013

·         LTE connections are expected to surpass HSPA connections in 2016

·         19 commercial LTE networks have been launched to date. These include AT&T, MetroPCS, Sprint and Verizon in the United States, and Bell Mobility and Rogers Wireless in Canada

·         Informa forecasts 200+ million LTE connections by 2017

We'll conclude our mini-stat marathon with this thought: Informa anticipates that by 2018 we will reach global LTE subscriptions of at least one billion. That number obviously represents a huge ramp up and fully underscores the need we mentioned above that the carriers and government agencies must get their acts together today - not tomorrow.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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