Global LTE subscriptions are projected to top 40 million by the end of the year – a fourfold increase of the 9 million global LTE users last year.

Driving this, says ABI Research, is the wide range of expected LTE smartphone launches in 2012 from such manufacturers as Nokia, Samsung and Apple, coupled with the surge in data consumption.

Today, the North American region accounts for 60 percent of total LTE subscriptions, the group says, followed by the Asia-Pacific region at 37 percent. However, AsiaPac LTE subscriptions are expected to overtake North America by 2014, primarily driven by uptake in China, India, Japan and South Korea.

“South Korea and Japan are witnessing amazing LTE subscription growth due to the availability of high-quality content, enabling the countries to be the next largest LTE markets after the United States,” says research associate Ying Kang Tan. “Having LTE data plans priced on par with 3G data plans were a major factor that accelerated the migration over to LTE.”

AsiaPac also will be the main growth engine for TD-LTE. Global TD-LTE subscription numbers will grow from 1 million at the end of 2012 to 139 million subscriptions by 2017. Again, China, India and Japan are collectively forecasted to account for 92 million TD-LTE subscriptions.

“However, spectrum fragmentation still remains the main obstacle preventing LTE subscribership in the Asia-Pacific region to go full throttle,” warns Dan Shey, mobile services practice director. “With LTE deployed in more than five spectrum bands, it creates additional costs for handset OEMs to develop a LTE smartphone for every band.”

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