Fourth-generation (4G) mobile networks have already reached the tipping point in some key markets and the wireless technology is already advancing rapidly towards it in other markets across the globe.
The LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) subscriptions will take an important role in the mobile subscriber market, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 295 percent between 2013 and 2018 to reach 500 million -- which will represent 34 percent of the overall 1.47 billion LTE-related subscriptions.
Meanwhile, total LTE subscriptions for 1Q-2013 increased by 37.5 percent quarter-on-quarter, reaching 108 million, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.
North America will be the most aggressive LTE-A market, followed by Asia-Pacific and Western Europe.
North America will commercially launch LTE-A by the end of 2013 and mobile subscriptions will approach 220 million by 2018, contributing 44 percent of the global LTE-A market.
"All the major mobile operators in the United States have shown their commitment to LTE-Advanced, and LTE-Advanced upgrades are underway," said Jake Saunders, vice president at ABI Research.
In Asia-Pacific, the LTE-A subscriptions will grow to reach 159 million by 2018, while in Western Europe, it should reach 55 million.
Confronted with an explosion in mobile data traffic and a need for greater bandwidth, Carrier Aggregation, an essential feature of LTE-A, can help mobile network operators to build greater transmission capacity, relieving stress on legacy spectrum assets.
By 1Q-2013, LTE subscriptions in South Korea reached 20 million, which is a remarkable 37 percent of its overall total subscriber base. There has been tremendous pent-up demand for ultra-high speed data services.
SK Telecom is aggregating two frequency bands in the 850 MHz and 1800 MHz bands to commercially launch its LTE-A services in September 2013. Moreover, all the signs indicate it is on schedule to do so.