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Mobile Service Providers Invest in LTE Infrastructure

The spending on Long-Term Evolution (LTE) mobile network base stations will reach $12.3 billion in 2013, as service providers around the world update their infrastructure to fourth-generation wireless technology.

Membership is not exclusive to the developed economies as emerging markets close the digital divide by aggressive network roll-out.

Some of these emerging market LTE deployments are government-sponsored initiatives, as in Rwanda, while others are private ventures, as in Sri Lanka.

4G LTE has helped to reverse the downward trend in RAN expenditure in Western Europe last year and will do the same in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Middle East in 2013 and Africa in 2014.

"There are, however, differences in the type of capital expenditure (CapEx) incurred in different regions," said Ying Kang Tan, research associate at ABI Research.

Operators in the developed markets are already taking steps to upgrade their networks to LTE-Advanced this year.

Going forward, amidst skyrocketing data traffic, they will also invest a larger proportion of their RAN spend on LTE small cells, which will yield significant savings on CapEx in addition to increased capacity for wireless operators.

Besides tangible infrastructure, intangible LTE spectrum licenses also have cost operators dearly. For example, the 4G mobile spectrum license acquired by France’s SFR constituted 38.9 percent of its CapEx last year.

Mobile carrier CapEx can be quite lumpy. 2013 will see a sharp reduction in China Mobile’s 3G investments in TD-SCDMA. In other markets, 3G equipment spend has already declined.

4G equipment spend is taking up some of the slack but there will still be a 6.0 percent drop this year. 2014 should see rising wireless investment as 4G deployment and capacity build-up gain momentum.

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