Despite the fact that no LTE (Long Term Evolution) network is expected to be commercial before 2010, a new study from ABI Research forecasts that by 2013, there will be more than 32 million subscribers using LTE networks. Three of the largest mobile operators - China Mobile, Vodafone and Verizon Wireless - have announced plans to adopt LTE.
Asia-Pacific countries will account for the largest regional share. "ABI Research anticipates about 12 million Asia-Pacific LTE network subscribers in 2013," says senior analyst Nadine Manjaro. "The remainder will be split about 60-40% between Western Europe and North America."
LTE commitments from NTT DoCoMo and KDDI in Japan will further boost adoption.
The long wait for the Chinese government to issue 3G licenses may become a factor driving LTE in that country: "It wouldn't surprise me to see some operators skip over 3G and go straight to LTE," says Manjaro. "Although China's own TD-SCDMA 3G technology will be deployed on a small scale during the Olympics, I can't see operators spending billions to implement that or any other 3G technology if they will just have to upgrade within a year or two."
Since LTE deployment involves new hardware and software, a number of industry sectors stand to benefit. Before 2010, it will be vendors of the test equipment used to ensure network interoperability and performance. Next will come vendors of the required network infrastructure equipment itself.
Finally, it will be device manufacturers. Because LTE is primarily about data, not voice, its first phase will see devices such as USB dongles for computers: ABI Research estimates 53 million to ship by 2013. Because LTE will compete directly with cable and DSL services, in-home modems will also see volume shipments, as will Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) and Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPCs). Manjaro calls the device market "a huge opportunity."
ABI Research's new study, "Long Term Evolution (LTE)" (http://www.abiresearch.com/products/market_research/UMTS_Long_Term_ Evolution) charts the LTE timeline, operators' strategies, and migration plans. It discusses IPR, backhaul, and security, includes forecasts for subscribers, base stations and femtocells, and lists planned LTE trials and deployments.