4G connections to hit one billion by 2017

Research from the GSMA predicts one in eight mobile connections will be 4G within the next four years

Mobile connections on 4G networks will surpass one billion by 2017, according to new research from the GSMA.

The operator organisation claimed this would represent one in eight mobile connections across the globe, with the number expected to reach eight billion within the next four years, compared to 176 million connections in 2013.

The report also forecasted there would be almost 500 4G or Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks by 2017 serving 128 countries – almost double the number available today.

Hyunmi Yang, chief strategy officer at the GSMA, said there were a number of factors driving the growth of 4G connections since the first commercial offering launched in 2009.

“The timely allocation of suitable spectrum to mobile operators, the availability of affordable LTE devices and the implementation of innovative tariffs that encourage adoption of high-speed data services [have all driven growth],” she said.

“Mobile operators in both developed and developing markets are seeing LTE services contributing to a significant increase in ARPU (average revenue per user).”

In fact, the report claimed 4G users consumed twice as much data as those on other networks, explaining the predicted lift in revenues.

Yang said specific markets were further ahead, but the industry was experiencing a “tipping point” as more regions got onboard with the technology.

“In ‘digital pioneer’ markets such as the United States, South Korea and Japan, the migration to LTE networks is well advanced and operators are seeing increases in subscriber engagement and ARPU as a result,” she added.

“We are now seeing other markets make the move to LTE in greater numbers and the double-digit annual growth in global LTE connections forecast between 2013-2017 will see many more consumers around the world engage with high-speed mobile networks.”

The US is currently leading on access, with 90% of the country able to connect the faster mobile connections. European 4G networks cover 47% of the population, whereas in Asia the figure is just 10%.

Overall, 20% of the world’s population is within reach of a 4G network at the moment, but this number is expected to hit 50% in 2017.

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