The latest market statistics indicate that LTE’s subscriber database is growing more rapidly than originally expected. The main industry players welcome this as good news, however they are now facing a delicate time in terms of LTE development and customer expectations.
ABI Research‘s latest report “Global Mobile Subscriber Database” shows that demand for fast wireless and mobile data connections has increased tremendously due to consumers’ growing acceptance of replacing fixed lines with wireless solutions. This has had a very positive effect on the LTE industry. By the first quarter of 2011, Verizon Wireless activated half a million LTE-enabled devices while Japan’s NTT DoCoMo network reaching the amazing number of 25,000 new LTE subscriptions during the same period.
This state of grace in the LTE industry is said to last. In the US, the number of LTE subscribers is forecasted to reach 85 million by 2016 (out of 387 million mobile subscriptions). More and more operators announce network launches or widened network coverage. And consumers are getting used to enjoying high speed and high quality data transmission to their smartphones and tablets. Streaming hours of video and other higher-bandwidth applications are replacing the traditional three-minute call. Consumers expect higher speed, better quality and global coverage, challenging operators to find ever more ambitious solutions.
Nowadays, operators not only have to increase their coverage but they also have to increase and update their existing tower base to support the significant jump in wireless network usage. These used to be able to support thousands of calls and texts at the same time (a few megabytes altogether) but today the average traffic per user now reaches 85 megabytes for a single web surfing smartphone and approaches the gigabyte for tablets and other internet devices. Service providers are facing a serious bandwidth issue and need to develop new use-based charges that won’t drive the customer away and that will enable them to support their operating costs. A change in the revenue model seems inevitable and a few other solutions are being discussed to minimize the issue. Offloading LTE links to WiFi when available or extra-priced services by the equipment developers are among the considered temporary solutions.
LTE’s future seems bright and growth is assured. On the consumer side, efficient networks and high speed data transmission can be expected. But, on the other hand, the industry still has to face a growing number of issues that might even oblige them to operate at a loss in a much nearer future than expected.