Now that China’s number two and three mobile operators — China Unicom and China Telecom — have been granted preferred FDD-LTE licenses, the country is expected to overtake the US this year to become the largest 4G market in the world.

ABI Research predicts that by the end of the year China will have 500 million LTE subscriptions, which will represent 36.5 per cent of total domestic mobile subscriptions.

In the first year of full LTE commercialisation (2014) China’s operators added nearly 100 million LTE subscriptions. With its first-mover advantage, China Mobile seized almost 90 per cent of the total LTE market. China Unicom had four million subscriptions at the end of 2014 while China Telecom had around three million.

ABI said global LTE subscriptions increased by 149.1 million in Q4 2014, with 4G growth for the first time surpassing 3G growth. ABI expects LTE adoption to continue to cannibalise the 3G subscriber base, growing at a CAGR of 21 per cent between 2015 and 2020, to reach 3.5 billion.

Asia-Pacific leads global LTE subscriptions with 48.6 per cent share, followed by North America and Western Europe. Global 2G subscriptions will continue to fall through 2020 and stand at 1.69 billion.