Global demand for 4G LTE services is growing at such a pace that GSMA Intelligence forecasts the one billion connections milestone will now be hit by 2017, up to a year earlier than previously expected.
By that time, predict the number crunchers, nearly 500 LTE networks are forecast to be in service across 128 countries, roughly double the number of live LTE networks today. And the superfast mobile broadband technology will account for about one in eight of the more than eight billion total mobile connections forecast by that point, up from 176 million LTE connections at the end of 2013.
While the US currently accounts for almost half (46 per cent) of global LTE connections today (thanks to major investment by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile US and Verizon Wireless), Asia is expected to account for almost half (47 per cent) the base by 2017, fuelled by 4G launches in the world’s two largest mobile markets – China and India.
The good news for operators is that GSMA Intelligence claims LTE users typically consume 1.5GB of data per month, almost twice the average amount consumed by non-LTE users. This will contribute to an uplift in ARPU (average revenue per user) for carriers; the analysts cite operators in developing markets who have noted that LTE users can generate ARPU seven to 20 times greater than non-LTE users, while operators in developed economies have found that LTE can generate an ARPU uplift ranging from 10 to 40 per cent.
With 20 per cent of the global population already within LTE network coverage range, GSMA Intelligence expects LTE networks to be available to half of the world’s population by 2017. Such growth, claims the analyst house, is evidence that the migration to 4G is happening considerably faster than the earlier migration from 2G to 3G.