Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mobile operators planning to write billion dollar checks for LTE equipment in 2011

SINGAPORE: As mobile data traffic exceeds 3.67 exabytes, operators are gearing up to prepare for 4G services as a means to manage that growth, reduce OPEX, and stimulate new revenue opportunities.

According to ABI Research vice president for forecasting Jake Saunders, “We estimate that mobile operators could well be writing out cheques for $1 billion in 2011. But as vendors offer their fountain pens, there is still uncertainty. There has been some slippage in LTE deployments. In early 2010, there were indications that 20 or more operators were planning to launch commercial services before year’s end.”

“If we compare the pre-launch marketing cycle of LTE with the pre-launch marketing cycle of WCDMA,” Saunders continues, “there is a distinct possibility a number of these launches could slip into late 2011. Assumptions, however, over the addressable market for LTE equipment, have not changed. LTE base stations could well climb to 600,000 by 2015.”

ABI Research’s WiMAX (802.16) base station forecasts have had to take into account recent WiMAX carrier announcements. Yota (Russia) and Clearwire (USA) have been taking steps to evaluate LTE equipment. A number of 802.16e operators have expressed a similar interest.

“The ‘opportunity door’ has not shut on 802.16m,” comments research director Philip Solis. “It is a positive sign that UQ Communications (Japan) has established a trial 802.16m test-bed. Also Samsung has announced that it will be making 802.16m equipment commercially available starting in 3Q-2011. Samsung and other WiMAX vendors could bring forward their production schedules for first-mover advantage.”

If WiMAX carriers swing behind 802.16m, the number of base stations could surpass 69,000 in 2015. Irrespective of the support given to 802.16m, 802.1616e operators are expected to add 90,000 base stations between now and 2015.

By 2015, WCDMA population coverage will have grown to 4.6 billion. Even in developing markets, there is considerable interest in upgrading base-stations to support 3.5G data rates.

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