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Report: 85 million LTE users by 2013

The first "truly global" mobile telecom system, long term evolution will initially be launched in countries such as Japan and China, says Cantab Wireless.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

Long term evolution (LTE) will debut first in Asia, and the 4G technology's subscribers will reach 85 million subscribers globally by end-2013, according to a new report.

To be launched within the next two years, LTE will be the first "truly global" mobile telecommunications system, U.K.-based wireless communications research analyst Cantab Wireless noted in a media statement Friday.

Given the progress of rival technologies, LTE currently lacks competition, Juha Korhonen, director at Cantab Wireless, pointed out in a whitepaper accompanying the LTE--The Future of Mobile Telecommunication report. Qualcomm announced in November its decision to halt development of its ultra mobile broadband (UMB), while mobile WiMax "is, at best, comparable to HSPA (high speed packet access) systems".

"In fact, HSPA+ networks will be offering the most credible competition to LTE, at least until the advanced WiMax, 802.16m, is available," Korhonen said, adding that the challenge mobile WiMax faced was that it had to compete against the established cellular ecosystem incumbent.

LTE subscribers from 2008 to 2013

Source: Cantab Wireless

Bryan Wang, Springboard's research director for connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region, agreed that mobile WiMax currently appeals lesser to operators. In an e-mail interview Monday, he estimated that mobile WiMax subscribers will comprise less than 5 percent to 10 percent of total mobile subscribers in the Asia-Pacific region, in the next three to five years.

Korhonen also pointed out that CDMA operators will likely adopt LTE sooner than UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system) operators. "This is because CDMA operators have very few options left after the cancellation of the UMB project [by Qualcomm in November]."

According to the Cantab report, Japan, China and the United States will be the first countries to launch LTE networks. The analyst estimates LTE will be available within two years.

China Mobile, noted Korhonen, is planning to leap from its current 2G technology directly to 4G as the company is dissatisfied with TD-SCDMA technology--China's homegrown 3G variant.

"[China Mobile] is now planning to adopt LTE-TDD (time division duplexing) as soon as possible," he said. "Our estimate is that for TDD mode equipment, this will occur at the end of 2010."

Springboard Research's Wang, however, told ZDNet Asia that the firm does not expect China to be among the first to roll out LTE, as 4G "is still a myth there". Japan will lead global deployment of LTE, with NTT Docomo's trial network expected to be activated late next year, he said.

Operators from developing countries in the region, added Wang, will not consider 4G for another three to four years as regulators in these economies are currently still struggling with 3G frequency and licensing issues.

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