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In monitoring the early progress of LTE, industry insiders closely watch countries where mobile operators are deploying new networks and offering commercial LTE devices and services.

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In South Korea, the United States and Japan, the number of LTE subscribers surpassed that of WiMAX subscribers in 4Q11, 1Q12, and 2Q12, respectively, according to ABI Research. “Japan, South Korea and the United States used to have strong mobile WiMAX proponents, so while the momentum and future of WiMAX and LTE are clear, it is somewhat surprising to see how long the subscriber crossover has actually taken,” says research director Phil Solis.

 

In mid-2014, even subscribers to LTE in TDD mode will have surpassed WiMAX subscribers at which point WiMAX subscribers will begin their permanent slow decline. TD-LTE subscriber growth is slow with only a handful of smaller mobile operators currently servicing active subscribers. This will greatly accelerate towards the end of 2013 and into 2014 when larger mobile operators with TDD spectrum start adding LTE subscribers – especially China Mobile.

 

LTE handsets are the primary LTE device for the foreseeable future capturing 77-percent of the LTE device market in 2011.  This percentage is dipping a bit in 2012 as LTE external modems and media tablets with embedded LTE modules pick up, but LTE handsets will surpass 80-percent of device shipments during 2016. 


A few gating factors are holding back a potential explosion of non-handset LTE devices, but these are starting to get resolved and most of these factors will deteriorate over the next few years. “The relatively new data share plans leave room for improvement and represent one diminishing factor holding back the wider LTE device market. Another is related to new and unique LTE chipset solutions coming to market over the next few years,” explains Solis.  “However, one of the factors that will remain is the complexity and cost around mobile technology royalties and litigation.”

----ABI Research

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