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4G coverage to surpass third of global population this year – report

4G LTE

4G networks will cover over a third of the world’s population by the end of this year, according to data published by the GSMA. The industry association said it has calculated that 4G availability will rise from 27% of the global population last year to 35% by December 2015.

Since the first commercial LTE networks were launched in 2009, the number of operators offering 4G services has risen to more than 350 and the number of unique connections has also more than doubled from around 200 million in 2013 to 490 million in December 2014.

As of December, 7% of all mobile connections in the world were 4G, and the GSMA said the number will increase to a worldwide total of 875 million by the end of 2015, representing 12% of all mobile connections.

“The rapid growth in 4G network deployments and connections, alongside expanding coverage reach, has made the move to 4G one of the fastest network technology migrations ever seen,” Hyunmi Yang, GSMA’s Chief Strategy Officer said. “GSMA Intelligence forecasts that global 4G connections will grow at more than 30% a year (CAGR) from 2014 to 2020.

“There is a tipping point we typically see when 4G grows to account for more than 20 per cent of a market that drives adoption of new services. This 20% threshold has already been reached in some markets, and is forecast to happen by 2017-18 on a global basis, which will have a huge transformational impact.”

The GSMA pointed out 4G adoption is closely associated to coverage and spectrum availability. The technology is typically deployed over the Digital Dividend bands of 700/800 MHz, refarmed 2/3 GHz (especially 1800 MHz) or the IMT-extension bands of 2500/2600 MHz. Three-quarters of 4G networks are currently running on these bands, which the GSMA said indicates progress in spectrum harmonisation.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the GSMA expects China to become the world’s largest 4G market reaching 300 million connections this year. Despite only launching LTE services in late 2013, the country already has the biggest number of individual operators offering the service (108 in total).

47% of world’s 4G connections are in the Asia-Pacific region and predominantly in South Korea, Japan and China. North America has 44% of all 4G connections.

# 4G Operators (Jan 2015) # 4G Connections (millions) % Total connections % Global 4G Connections
Asia Pacific 62 232 6% 47%
North America 47 157 44% 32%
Europe 108 69 10% 14%
Latin America 55 12 2% 2%
CIS 22 11 3% 2%
Middle East/North Africa 26 6 1% 1%
Sub-Saharan Africa 32 3 0.4% 1%
TOTAL 352 490 7% 100%

All data Q4 2014, except where stated. Source: GSMA Intelligence


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