LTE connections to hit one billion by 2017

The number of LTE connections worldwide is expected to surpass one billion by 2017, according to trade association the GSMA.

The association predicts that there will be more than eight billion total mobile connections by 2017, of which around one in eight will be LTE connections. The GSMA forecasts that there will be 176 million LTE connections at the end of 2013.

The body also expects nearly 500 LTE networks to be in service across 128 countries, approximately double the number of live LTE networks today.

“Our new report highlights a number of factors that are driving LTE growth: the timely allocation of suitable spectrum to mobile operators; the availability of affordable LTE devices; and the implementation of innovative tariffs that encourage adoption of high-speed data services,” said Hyunmi Yang, chief strategy officer at the GSMA.

“Mobile operators in both developed and developing markets are seeing LTE services contributing to a significant increase in ARPU.”

Around 20 per cent of the global population is currently within LTE network coverage range, according to the study, and this will grow to half of the world’s population by 2017. In the United States, LTE networks already cover more than 90 per cent of the population. In comparison, there is 47 per cent population coverage in Europe and 10 per cent in Asia.

The US currently accounts for almost half (46 per cent) of global LTE connections and together with South Korea and Japan, the three markets combine account for 80 per cent of the LTE total today.

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However, Asia is expected to account for almost half (47 per cent) of all LTE connections by 2017, as LTE networks are rolled out in major markets such as China and India.

South Korea is the most advanced LTE market worldwide with half of total mobile connections now running on LTE networks – compared to 20 per cent in Japan and the United States.

The study also revealed that in developing economies, operators have noted that LTE users can generate ARPU seven to 20 times greater than non-LTE users. In developed markets, operators have found that LTE can generate an ARPU uplift ranging from 10 per cent to 40 per cent.

“Our findings show that the global LTE market is at a ‘tipping point.’ In ‘Digital Pioneer’ markets such as the United States, South Korea and Japan, the migration to LTE networks is well advanced and operators are seeing increases in subscriber engagement and ARPU as a result,” added Yang.

“We are now seeing other markets make the move to LTE in greater numbers and the double-digit annual growth in global LTE connections forecast between 2013-2017 will see many more consumers around the world engage with high-speed mobile networks.”

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