According to ABI Research, the mobile carriers managed to crack the 100 million device barrier for LTE-enabled mobile devices in 2012 - though just barely at 103 million total devices. ABI notes that just about 91 million LTE-enabled smartphones were purchased in 2012, along with 3.35 million tablets of various makes and models. The rest was made up through other devices, such as LTE adaptors for laptops.
On the tablet front the total number of LTE devices sold is but the tip of the tablet iceberg relative to total sales. But, it's clear that for the vast majority of tablet users it's Wi-Fi that serves as the primary and typically only means of wireless network access. Mobile phones, however, face no such barriers - and per ABI both the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones have been major contributors to getting the overall LTE number over 100 million. ABI also notes that North America and the Asia Pacific region contributed just about all of this LTE growth, with 95 percent of all LTE devices sold in these two global regions.
As an interesting aside, even though both Apple and Samsung smartphones have provided that LTE-enabled handset shipment lift, it hasn't assisted the 4G mobile operators with “each and every” LTE handset sold.
According to Jake Saunders, VP for forecasting at ABI Research, " When 3G handsets came into the market in 2003 and 2004, there was pretty much a 1 to 1 correlation between a 3G handset sold and a subscription upgrade from 2G to 3G. That is not happening with every LTE handset sale."
That will certainly change over the next several years. The benefits of using LTE are simply too substantial for users to keep the capabilities in check rather than putting it all into play. Saunders adds that "Carriers should not be panicking. At the very least current LTE smartphone sales are seeding the market with 4G handsets. A number of purchasers are simply coveting their favorite 'Brand' and/or carrying out a much needed update to one of their key fashion accessories but heavy LTE usage will follow.”
“New sign-ups and conversion of 3G subscribers with LTE-capable handsets should gather pace in 2013 and 2014. By 2017 we are anticipating 785 LTE million subscribers, up from 58 million at the end of 2012, and will generating $14 billion in annual service revenues,” adds Phil Solis, ABI research director.
Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli