LTE networks are set to cover more than a third (35 percent) of the world’s population by the end of 2015, with Europe accounting for almost one in six connections, the GSMA has said.
Coverage is set to increase from 27 percent at the end of 2014 to 35 percent by the end of December. There were 352 operators selling LTE contracts at the end of January 2015. Europe accounted for 108 of them, with 69 million connections or 14 percent of global 4G connections.
The number of LTE connections more than doubled between 2013 and 2014 from 200 million to 490 million. In Europe, 10 percent of all connections are on a 4G contract, ahead of the global average of seven percent.
The GSMA predicted there will be 875 million connections by the end of 2015, which will be 12 percent of total subscribers. By 2020, this will account for more than 30 percent of global connections, with 4G covering 63 percent of the world’s population.
The report also found fresh 4G deployments are on the digital dividend bands of 700MHz or 800MHz. Operators are typically refarming spectrum in the 1800Mhz and 2600MHz bands for LTE use. According to the GSMA, three quarters of all 4G deployments are across these bands, which it said was a sign that harmonisation was working.
Asia-Pacific is the biggest 4G region, with 232 million connections or a market share of 47 percent. However, its 4G share is only six percent of total connections.
Europe also lags behind North America, with 157 million customers on LTE, a market share of 32 percent, with 4G accounting for 44 percent of the region’s total connections.
Hyunmi Yang, Chief Strategy Officer at the GSMA, commented: “The rapid growth in 4G network deployments and connections, alongside expanding coverage reach, has made the move to 4G one of the fastest network technology migrations ever seen. GSMA Intelligence forecasts that global 4G connections will grow at more than 30 percent a year (CAGR) from 2014 to 2020.
“There is a tipping point we typically see when 4G grows to account for more than 20 per cent of a market that drives adoption of new services. This 20 percent threshold has already been reached in some markets, and is forecast to happen by 2017-18 on a global basis, which will have a huge transformational impact.”