At the end of last year there were over 230 million LTE-related mobile subscriptions worldwide, according to ABI Research. That’s 3.3% of all mobile subscribers. This figure is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 36.6% between 2014 and 2019, resulting in more than 2 billion 4G subscriptions by the end of the forecast period.
As expected, LTE-enabled handset shipments have increased alongside subscriber numbers. 335.4 million units were shipped in 2013, which was a 222% year-on-year increase. ABI Research says 4G network availability is also stimulating the sale of LTE-enabled tablets and USB dongles: this year 12.8 million LTE-enabled tablets are expected to be shipped, along with 10.6 million 4G USB dongles.
In addition, Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) service is being rolled out as 4G networks become available. By the end of 2014, there are expected to be 59.6 million VoLTE subscriptions in place worldwide - and more than half of all LTE-related cellular subscriptions are expected to be using VoLTE services by the end of 2019.
Jake Saunders, VP and practice director of core forecasting at ABI Research, said “Early LTE roll-out can confer first mover advantage. In Asia-Pacific, South Korean operators have used LTE to boost profit margins (9.4% higher than normal); and China Mobile is pinning its hopes on LTE-TDD to help it catch up with its competitors in mobile broadband services. In the United Kingdom, Everything Everywhere has gained four times as many LTE subscribers as the nearest competitor.”