4G LTE Subscribers Will Remain King for Some Time, Even with 5G

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Global LTE subscribers now total 2 billion and will exceed 4 billion in 2022 – the equivalent of more than 50% of the expected world population, according to a new forecast from ABI Research.

Gigabit LTE wireless networks are beginning to make their mark in the U.S. and other leading developed markets worldwide even as nationwide 4G LTE deployments near completion, but there is still room for LTE to grow in most wireless network markets, ABI says.

“Gigabit LTE appeared this month in Telstra’s network, and we expect more than 15 mobile operators to be offering Gigabit speed services to their subscribers by the end of 2017. This is a significant development, and one that will lead to the birth of new use cases from the increase in data speed available to end users,” ABI research director Nick Marshall was quoted.

LTE Data Trends

The amount of wireless data the average user worldwide will consume will increase from 1.2GB per month today to more than 5.7 GB per month in 2022, ABI projects. That translates to mobile network traffic growing from 109 exabytes (EB, 1018 bytes) to 522 EB.

LTE networks carry 67% of total mobile traffic worldwide today. That will rise to 82% in 2022. 5G LTE networks will account for just 13% at that time, ABI says.

Mobile network operator margins will come under increasing pressure over the period. Average revenue per user (ARPU) in the U.S., the world’s most lucrative market, will fall from around $43 today to under $35 in 2022, according to ABI. Capex will continue to decrease in parallel until 2019 when carriers’ 5G deployment begins ramping up.

Alongside this, 2G and 3G networks will continue to decline and are now entering their second consecutive year of decline. ABI is tracking 60 operators whose 2G networks are in their “twilight” and 38 whose 3G networks are in their “sunset.”

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