At the end of 4Q11, the worldwide Long Term Evolution (LTE) subscriber base nearly doubled in size compared with the previous quarter to reach 12.02 million subscribers worldwide, showing a rapid adoption of LTE at the expense of WiMAX.
According to research firm Maravedis, this quarter-over-quarter subscriber increase for LTE and WiMAX was 92 percent and 14 percent, respectively, compared with the numbers at the end of 3Q11.
At the end of 2011, 54 operators worldwide had launched LTE commercially, 19 during the fourth quarter alone. An additional 224 major mobile operators had committed to launching the technology in the future, 193 of those with FDD-LTE and 31 with TD-LTE.
"Maravedis anticipates that 469 million LTE subscribers will be active by 2016, of which 25 percent (118 million) will be TD-LTE users and the rest (75 percent or 350 million) will be FDD-LTE," explains Cintia Garza, 4GCounts team leader.
The region where the most TD-LTE trials had been taking place during 4Q11 was APAC, with 18 operators trialing the technology, followed by Europe with 5 trials.
"Although we have seen some commercial TD-LTE deployments happening in 2011 outside Asia, these deployments will not drive the substantial economies of scale expected from the larger deployments in China and India this year," added Maravedis’ Basharat Ashai.
In 4Q11, NSN-Motorola and Huawei enjoyed the lion’s share of awarded LTE contracts, with 26 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) delivered the TD-LTE network and USB dongles for the commercial launch of SKY (Brazil), becoming the first TD-LTE network in Latin America.
Huawei clinched about 41 LTE contracts in 2011, while Alcatel-Lucent took 12 percenr of the contracts, and the vendor is expected to land further LTE infrastructure contracts in Latin America, potentially in Chile, Colombia and Brazil.
The majority of LTE devices available today support the 700MHz band because the predominant LTE deployments are from U.S. operators Verizon Wireless and AT&T, which operate in that band.
"We believe, however, that the number of devices covered in the 2.6 GHz band will soon exceed the devices deployed in the 700 MHz band,” Garza adds. “The 2.6 GHz band has been widely allocated for mobile broadband across the world in both FDD and TD-LTE modes. We believe that multimode and multifrequency devices will gradually become the norm.”
More Maravedis findings:
>> 2.6 GHz, in combination with 800 MHz and 1800 MHz, will be the dominant bands for LTE deployments in the future.
>> Large-volume production of TD-LTE handsets won’t start until 2013.
>> 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.
>> 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.