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Anticipating 4G Mobile Network Subscriber Adoption

Wireless fourth-generation (4G) mobile network subscriber adoption will escalate in 2012 -- as a variety of 4G-enabled mobile devices, such as USB dongles, smartphones, media tablets, 4G portable hotspots, and wireless broadband CPE modems, are shipping this year.

"4G devices are expected to generate 87 million in unit sales in 2012, that's up 294 percent year-on-year,” states Jake Saunders, vice president of forecasting at ABI Research.

According to their latest market assessment, the lion’s share of the global market is now backing LTE as service provider and vendor support has fallen away from the WiMAX fourth generation wireless network standard.

Observing the success of 3G cellular services, ABI analysts believes that it is clear there is a natural evolutionary demand from end-users, both business and consumer, to jump onto the 4G data bandwagon.

However, there are still some teething issues that will need to be resolved. Some operators in Western Europe have stated that while customers do recognize 4G offers higher speeds, they're not subscribing in large numbers, as many say they won't pay the premium for 4G handsets and 4G service tariffs.

High definition, from video streaming to richer, more interactive or immersive social networking and gaming experiences, should coax 3G customers to migrate to 4G.

Furthermore, mobile device vendors are experiencing intense competitive pressure, which is expected to bring down LTE handset prices -- estimated at a 10 to 20 percent reduction over the next two years.

"As evidenced by the Australian iPad 3 promotion fiasco, when iPad 3s were being promoted as being ‘LTE-ready,’ even though the modem is unable to access the Australian LTE spectrum band, the number of LTE spectrum bands will hamper initial pricing and product roll-out," says Philip Solis, research director, mobile devices at ABI Research.

Regardless, in addition to 61 million 4G handsets being shipped in 2012, ABI estimates 26 million 4G non-handset products will be shipped.

In the short-term, most of that will reflect customers purchasing USB dongles for legacy laptops and netbooks, followed by customer premise equipment, or home modem, purchases.

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