Ericsson released its Traffic and Market Report this week and it estimates there will be 1 Billion LTE subscribers by 2017. Maybe more interesting is the revelation that 50% of the world’s population will have LTE coverage at that time up from just 315 million reached today. ABI Research forecasted in May that LTE subscribers will surpass 40 million this year or a little or 12% of the population living in LTE accessible areas. With that said, ABI originally forecast LTE subscribers at the end of 2011 would be 16 million and now have apparently revised that to 9 million, a whopping 78% variance. This tells us something we already knew, forecasts are notoriously inaccurate especially in the early stages of new technology deployment.
Half of Mobile Connections will be 4G
If ABI and Ericsson are closer in their estimates this year, the 40 million LTE subscribers would represent just under 3% of all mobile broadband connections worldwide. Mobile broadband is probably the more important statistic. While LTE is great for the on-the-go consumption of video as I reviewed in a previous field test, its 4G cousins HSPA/WCDMA also provide more than adequate data speeds for most uses. The chart below shows that more than half of all mobile data connections will in fact be of a 4G variety by 2017.
LTE / 4G will soon be Ubiquitous
If you look further at wireless connectivity availability there are even more interesting insights. The chart below illustrates that 85% of the world’s population will have access to HSPA/WCDMA, including more than 50% of rural areas. We are quickly becoming a connected world even in remote areas.
LTE / 4G Impact on the Enterprise
The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) reports that there are 72 mobile network operators offering commercial LTE today and the number will grow to 134 by year’s end. This is good news for the global CIO. Connectivity for mobile workers has historically been a big challenge. The rapid growth of LTE and 4G will help these workers maintain connectivity and increase enterprise productivity. As my friend John Vaughn from Harris is often heard saying, “LTE is the technology that ate the world.” It may not be there yet, but it is certainly moving more quickly than previous standards which were fragmented by geography.
The spread of LTE and 4G also provides new opportunities for CIOs seeking high speed data connections for remote offices. Many areas that do not have high-speed wireline circuits today will be more easily and cost effectively served by providing employees with LTE enabled mobile devices and dongles for PCs. This reverse offloading trend of moving data transport from wireline to wireless is sure to increase particularly in the developing world where LTE and HSPA performance will far surpass wireline alternatives.
What do you think the impact of rapid LTE / 4G expansion globally will mean for the enterprise?