The addition of new mobile subscribers from Asia-Pacific's emerging markets will help propel the region to the top of the pile in terms of worldwide mobile subscription growth.
According to the Ericsson Mobility Report released Wednesday, global mobile subscriptions is expected to hit 6.6 billion by the end of 2012 and rise to 9.3 billion in the next six years. This is a higher projection than that provided by GSM Association, which indicated there will be 3.2 billion active subscribers by the end of this year.
Asia-Pacific is the main driver of growth as the region will see the doubling of mobile subscriptions from close to 4 billion mobile subscriptions in 2009 to around 8 billion in 2018. This projection is based on the number of new mobile users coming onboard. China, for example, accounted for 38 million net additions in the third quarter of 2012 alone, and this was followed by the rest of Asia-Pacific contributing another 31 million, the report noted.
India's mobile subscription dropped by 18 million in the same quarter, however, as telcos removed inactive subscriptions from their customer databases, it stated.
LTE uptake still low
In terms of wireless technology deployed, while LTE continues to be touted as the future for wireless networks, it is actually Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA)/ High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) networks which are currently providing coverage to to more than half the world's mobile population. It will also grew faster this third quarter, adding 65 million subscribers to LTE's 13 million, the study found.
For Asia-Pacific, W-CDMA/HSPA networks provided over 50 percent of coverage in the region in 2011--above the global average of 45 percent. LTE, by contrast, provided just 1.5 percent of wireless coverage and was below the global average of 5 percent.
However, LTE coverage in the region is expected to spike from now until 2017, from 1.5 percent to 60 percent in five years' time. It will remain in the shadows of GSM/Edge and W-CDMA/HSPA networks, though, as these will reach 90 percent and above during the same time period.