3.7 million new BWA/WiMAX subscribers were added in Q4 2010, and 5.5 million will be added throughout 2011, according to the 14th issue of the 4GCounts Quarterly Report from Maravedis. The subscriber base for WiMAX and LTE reached 17.25 million and 320,000 respectively at the end of March 2011. The WiMAX subscriber increase represents a 32.7% jump quarter-over-quarter, from 13 million reported at the end of Q4 2010.
Maravedis anticipates that 59 FDD-LTE and 3 LTE TDD networks will be operational worldwide by the end of this year. “There will be 305 million LTE subscribers by 2016, of which 14%, or 44 million, will be TD-LTE users and the rest (86%, or 261 million) will be FDD-LTE,” said Esteban Monturus, co-author of the quarterly report.
TD-LTE has gained global momentum and attracted attention to TDD spectrum. Maravedis anticipates that commercial TD-LTE networks could begin in more than 10 countries or areas in 2011-2012, even ahead of China Mobile's deployment. On the regulatory side, additional spectrum made available for 4G has seen much more progress in GSM refarming than in the digital dividend initiative. The latter is still many years away from full availability.
One of the most notable events that took place during the first quarter of 2011 in Europe was the Swedish 800 MHz band auction in March 2011. TeliaSonera, Net4Mobility and Hutchison 3G each won 2X10MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz for 4G network deployment. The UK´s telecom regulator announced an incoming spectrum auction, which is expected to pave the way for 4G services in the country. According to the proposed details, the auction will be for the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands.
Handsets are surpassing fixed modems and USB dongles. These three are the preferred devices among the top 50 WiMAX operators, representing the 34%, 25% and 30% of the device market share respectively. Handsets and smartphones are taking off thanks to the aggressive deployment of these devices by Clearwire (USA), Yota (Russia) and Korea Telecom (South Korea). We believe that tablets and flip phones that convert into tablets will be the next wave for 2011 in terms of devices.
Applications and devices are driving the use of mobile broadband and consequently increasing the mobile traffic. Mobile video today accounts for 40% of mobile traffic worldwide, and will become the dominant feature of the mobile web. 3D video will become a popular application for mobile broadband, since portable devices allow end users to watch 3D content without uncomfortable glasses. There will be approximately 450 billion mobile video users globally by 2014. In this latest quarterly report we will analyze the alternatives 4G operators have for traffic offloading including using new spectrum, adding more cell sites, deploying new technologies, offloading data onto other networks, and introducing tiered pricing plans.
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MARAVEDIS is a leading analyst firm focusing on 4G and broadband wireless technologies and markets.
Author: Cintia Garza, Team Leader 4GCounts & Market Analyst CALA