LTE overtakes WiMAX in major developed telecom markets

Telecom Lead Asia: In South Korea, the United States, and Japan, the number of LTE subscribers have surpassed that of WiMAX subscribers in Q4 2011, Q1 2012, and Q2 2012, respectively.

“Japan, South Korea, and the United States used to have strong mobile WiMAX proponents, so while the momentum and future of WiMAX and LTE are clear, it is somewhat surprising to see how long the subscriber crossover has actually taken,” said ABI Research director Phil Solis.

ABI Research forecasts that in mid-2014, subscribers to TDD- LTE will surpass WiMAX subscribers at which point WiMAX subscribers will begin their permanent, slow decline.

TD-LTE subscriber growth is slow with only a handful of smaller mobile operators currently servicing active subscribers. This will accelerate towards the end of 2013 and into 2014 when larger mobile operators with TDD spectrum start adding LTE subscribers – especially China Mobile.

In India, operators such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Industries-owned Infotel Broadband, Aircel and Tikona are looking at utilizing TD-LTE technology for launching their mobile broadband services in the country.

LTE handsets are the primary LTE device for the foreseeable future capturing 77 percent of the LTE device market in 2011. This percentage is dipping a bit in 2012 as LTE external modems and media tablets with embedded LTE modules pick up, but LTE handsets will surpass 80 percent of device shipments during 2016.

According to ABI Research, a few factors are holding back a potential explosion of non-handset LTE devices, but these are starting to get resolved and most of these factors will deteriorate over the next few years.

“The relatively new data share plans leave room for improvement and represent one diminishing factor holding back the wider LTE device market. Another is related to new and unique LTE chipset solutions coming to market over the next few years. However, one of the factors that will remain is the complexity and cost around mobile technology royalties and litigation,” Solis added.

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