LTE handset sales worldwide are expected to reach 490.5 million in 2017, a 73% percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2012, according to a new report from Pyramid Research. Total LTE subscriptions (as opposed to handsets) will reach 802.2 million, a 72% CAGR from 2012.
The Asia Pacific region will surpass North America as the region with the highest number of LTE subscriptions by 2015. For now, the majority of LTE subscriptions are for PCs, PC add-ons and tablets. But by the end of the forecast period Pyramid Research expects handsets to account for the bulk of LTE subscriptions, especially in North America, Europe and developed Asian markets.
By 2017, 82% of handset sales in South Korea, and 79% of handset sales in Japan, are expected to be LTE. In the USA, LTE handsets will be 71% of total mobile handset sell-through. LTE is consolidating its position as the emerging global standard for 4G mobile broadband. Over 300 operators worldwide are now committed to LTE, and 86 operators have commercial networks up and running.
The report contains substantial detail on LTE dynamics in individual countries and regions. The first international roaming plan for mobile LTE debuted in June. Customers of CSL in Hong Kong and SK Telecom in South Korea are now able to use the networks of both operators. In July 2012, Clearwire and China Mobile signed a memorandum of understanding laying out plans for roaming between their LTE networks in the USA and China.
Operators in the USA and South Korea aim to roll out Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology by the end of the year, with others following in 2013. The technology’s relatively high price will continue to inhibit its diffusion in smaller and developing markets. Large low-income countries such as China, Indonesia and Brazil will begin to drive growth toward the end of the forecast period.
Spectrum fragmentation continues to pose a challenge for growth, raising the production cost of devices and posing challenges to operators interested in offering international roaming plans. The 700MHz band is the most common band in North America. In Europe and the Asia Pacific region the most common bands are 1800MHz and 2600MHz.