While it has been a common practice for telecom industry analysts to assess the economic vitality of a nation by ranking their relative investment in fiber optic broadband communication infrastructure, in future the comparison of wireless broadband capabilities will be the key measure of supremacy.
By the end of 2014, China had gained almost 100 million 4G LTE mobile service subscriptions in the first year of full commercialization -- further demonstrating the nation's unprecedented growth momentum, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.
Harnessing their first-mover advantage, China Mobile seized almost 90 percent share of the total 4G LTE market in China. Their accelerated investment in telecom infrastructure is a testament to the emerging Chinese leadership within the Global Networked Economy.
"Since the other two China mobile operators -- China Unicom and China Telecom -- were granted preferred FDD-LTE licenses in March 2015, it is expected that China will overtake the United States to become the largest 4G market in the world, accumulating 500 million LTE subscriptions, or 36.5 percent of the domestic cellular subscriptions in 2015," said Marina Lu, research analyst at ABI Research.
In 4Q 2014, global 4G LTE subscriptions increased by 149.1 million, which, for the first time, surpassed 3G subscriptions growth by 10.9 percent.
According to the ABI assessment, 4G LTE subscriptions will continue to cannibalize the 3G subscriber base, growing at a CAGR of 21 percent between 2015 and 2020, to reach 3.5 billion.
The Asia-Pacific region already leads the global 4G LTE subscriptions with 48.6 percent share, followed by North America and Western Europe. Global 2G subscriptions will continue to fall through 2020 and stand at 1.69 billion.
Due to several consolidation activities in the mobile industry, Western Europe saw some temporary fluctuations to the total number of mobile subscriptions.
In 4Q 2014, Telefnica Germany excluded 428,000 mobile accesses from its mobile subscriptions due to the adjustment in the former E-Plus customer base. This led to an overall drop in total subscriptions even though enhanced LTE coverage and availability of new devices helped Telefnica gain more subscriptions.
In the long-term, the consolidation will deliver synergies from network combination, overhead reduction, and retail shop rationalization. Through strengthening the competitive position and local scale, it might attract more customers.
One more acquisition is expected in the United Kingdom: Hutchison purchasing O2; making 3UK the largest mobile operator. Currently, Everything Everywhere (yes, that's the name of a service provider) is the largest mobile operator, with aggressive 4G LTE subscriptions of 7.6 million in 2014.