Soaring demand for 4G services is expected to drive the number of global LTE subscriptions to 1.6 billion in 2018 from just 55 million this year, according to a new study published by Ericsson.
The network-equipment maker describes LTE as the fastest-developing system in the history of mobile communications in its latest mobility report, which examines the worldwide growth of mobile technologies and services.
Among the company’s other forecasts is that LTE coverage will expand from 455 million people currently to more than half the world’s population over the next five years.
Development is occurring most rapidly in North America. Ericsson (Stockholm, Sweden) expects LTE to become the dominant technology in the region in 2018, and says “GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions will virtually no longer be present”.
Take-up is being driven by LTE competition between the country’s main operators, with the impetus provided by Verizon Wireless (New York, USA). The number-one player wants to realize cost savings by closing down its CDMA networks and supporting all of its subscribers using 4G technology.
Ericsson also forecasts rapid LTE adoption in Japan and South Korea, where operators have been making substantial investments in the standard.
In Western Europe, meanwhile, LTE is expected to penetrate about 30% of the subscriptions base by 2018.
Operators are rolling out LTE to support rapid growth in the usage of mobile-data services.
According to Ericsson’s data, mobile-data traffic doubled between the third quarters of 2011 and 2012 and is expected to grow 12 times between 2012 and 2018, with video-based services contributing the biggest share of mobile traffic volumes.
“Expectations of mobile-network quality have been elevated by the availability of smartphones and tablets that have changed the way we use the internet,” said Douglas Gilstrap, the senior vice president and head of strategy at Ericsson.
“Mobility is becoming an increasingly significant part of our daily lives; we always have devices within arm’s reach, allowing us instant access to information, entertainment and social interaction,” he said.