With the first service providers, such as SK Telecom, now upgrading their networks to LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) and China Mobile deploying a TD-LTE network and issuing a huge tender for over 200,000 base stations, 4G wireless technology is maturing.
According to the findings from the latest market study by ABI Research, TD-LTE and LTE-Advanced are set to dominate the LTE installed base of macro base stations as early as 2015.
While FD-LTE will continue to represent a majority of LTE installations, it is the rapid growth in LTE-A and TD-LTE subscriptions which will drive this change.
By 2018, ABI forecasts that there will be 1.467 billion LTE subscriptions worldwide; of those, 34 percent will be on LTE-Advanced (Release 10+) networks, while 42 percent and 24 percent will be on the older Release 8/9 LTE-FDD and LTE-TDD networks, respectively.
"The rapid uptake in LTE-A comes as a result of the evolutionary nature of the LTE standards and the relative ease with which installed LTE base stations can be upgraded," says Nick Marshall principal analyst at ABI Research.
LTE-Advanced will progress in a phased rollout with Carrier Aggregation implemented first, followed by the eICIC, CoMP, Enhanced MIMO, and HetNet support features which will all help operators address the upsurge in network traffic.
Which 4G markets are the most mature? Relative to network size, Japan, South Korea, and China in the Asia-Pacific region will have the largest LTE macro basestation installed base in 2015 -- followed by Western Europe and North America.
However, it is North America which will account for the majority of the LTE-Advanced installed base -- driven by mobile network operators such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile/MetroPCS, and Softbank/Sprint which all have hinted at plans to introduce LTE-Advanced in the very near future.