However, I beg to differ. There are three major reasons for my optimism about the fast pace of LTE / 4G deployments around the world. Based on these, I believe that LTE could be one of the fastest developing mobile technologies ever!
The first reason is the user demand. I believe there is an incredible demand for accessing information wherever you want and whenever you want it. The deployment of Smartphones, Tablets, and all sort of mobile multimedia apps, services, and content made it possible for mobile users to demand whatever they want, on the go
This tsunami-like growth in demand for mobile content was not there 10 -12 years ago. I know for a fact that mobile operators had difficulty justifying 3G roll-outs vs 2.5G. Today, the demand is so huge that justifying new, more efficient technologies and more spectrum is much easier.
We already have over 800 million Smartphones, but there is still significant upside on the numbers of these devices. I think it is reasonable to expect about 2 billion Smartphones, one third of 6 billion total mobile handsets, by 2013.
Social networking is one of the major drivers of mobile traffic demand. It looks like social network users have already exceeded all other Internet users.
Finally, mobile Internet is expected to eclipse desktop Internet, for both consumer and enterprise markets. We see a significant increase in the deployment of mobile solutions for the enterprise around the world.
Thus the demand for mobile communication, mobile Internet, mobile social networking, mobile enterprise, mobile anything is huge and growing at paces we have never seen before.
LTE technology is superior
The second reason for my optimism is that LTE is the right technology for the current opportunities and challenges industry is facing today. There are at least two major reasons for that:
- LTE is a unifying technology for almost all mobile operators around the world. All GSM/UMTS operators as well as most CDMA operators have agreed to evolve to LTE. This harmonization of mobile technologies is a major acceleration factor for the deployment of the LTE networks. It is expected to offer huge cost efficiencies for the mobile industry as a whole.
- Also, LTE technology is significantly more efficient for the air interface part compared to any previous cellular technologies. Mobile operators who are under the huge demand pressure mentioned above, can easily justify the investment in LTE in terms of significant bandwidth efficiency savings.
So, LTE is the right technology at the right time.
Impressive adoption & deployment so far
My third reason for optimism is the pace of LTE development and deployment so far. Based on various industry reports, we already have:
- 248 mobile operators in 87 countries currently investing significant money into LTE
- 185 operators in 66 countries, already firmly committed to deploy commercial LTE networks
- Plus 63 additional operators running tech-trials / pilots in other 21 countries
- Already there are 35 commercially available LTE networks in 20+ countries
- 48 manufacturers already announced 197 different LTE end-devices, covering a wide range of spectrum, 700 MHz to 2.6 GHz.
Given all these activities and deployments, I tend to agree with industry reports that we may reach around 300 Million LTE subscribers by 2015. It may even be a higher number.
Here in the U.S. one major operator already has 186 million population coverage for LTE as of last month. Every week, U.S. operators are announcing new LTE handsets.
Interesting observation is that the LTE investment decisions, trials and deployments are not limited to developed, mature markets. In fact, there are more emerging markets interested in LTE, since it is seen as very critical for their broadband service deployment and economic development. LTE is now considered a must for national economies.
The bottom line is there are already significant investments and deployment of LTE services around the world.
It is clear that the mobile communication market is expanding exponentially. This presents various opportunities and challenges for the industry. Mobile operators are making huge sums of investments in new technologies, as well as expanding their capacities and services. Other eco-system players are making significant investments as well. Mobile payments, social networking, machine-to-machine, mobile healthcare are some of the sub-sectors receiving major attention.
These investments are helping the industry to grow in multiple tracks. They are stimulating more innovative end devices, more applications and services, and thus changing our daily lives for the better.
It is exciting times to be in the mobile industry!