In South Korea, the United States, and Japan, the number of 4G/LTE subscribers surpassed that of WiMAX subscribers in the recent quarters, according to monitoring of the early progress of 4G/LTE by ABI Research.
“Japan, South Korea, and the United States used to have strong mobile WiMAX proponents, so while the momentum and future of WiMAX and 4G/LTE are clear, it is somewhat surprising to see how long the subscriber crossover has actually taken. In mid-2014, even subscribers to 4G/LTE in TDD mode will have surpassed WiMAX subscribers at which point WiMAX subscribers will begin their permanent, slow decline,” said Phil Solis, a research director at ABI.
TD-4G/LTE subscriber growth is slow with only a handful of smaller mobile operators currently servicing active subscribers. This will greatly accelerate towards the end of 2013 and into 2014 when larger mobile operators with TDD spectrum start adding 4G/LTE subscribers – especially China Mobile.
4G/LTE handsets are the primary 4G/LTE devices for the foreseeable future capturing 77% of the 4G/LTE products market in 2011. This percentage is dipping a bit in 2012 as 4G/LTE external modems and media tablets with embedded 4G/LTE modules pick up, but 4G/LTE handsets will surpass 80% of device shipments during 2016. A few gating factors are holding back a potential explosion of non-handset 4G/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 4G/LTE device market. Another is related to new and unique 4G/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,” said Mr. Solis.