Hype about 5G launch dates in 2020 aside, LTE is still going to be a major part of mobile broadband connectivity over the next decade as LTE-Advanced Pro and Gigabit LTE continue to gain subscribers, says ABI Research.
According to ABI, LTE overall will grow from approximately 30% of global mobile subscriptions in 2017 to 50% in 2024. Gigabit LTE – currently expected to rack up nearly two million subscriptions globally in 2017, which is less than 5% of LTE Advanced Pro subscriptions in 2017 – will account for 30% of global LTE subscriptions by 2026.
Gigabit LTE is a pivotal piece of an advanced 4G mobile network that can support an operator’s mobile service goals over the next six to eight years and beyond, said Prayerna Raina, Senior Analyst at ABI Research.
“Gigabit LTE is a specific configuration of the LTE Advanced Pro standard and is expected to account for 70% of LTE Advanced Pro subscriptions by 2026,” says Raina. “It is a critical network milestone for operators in an increasingly competitive environment in the evolution to 5G.”
ABI Research expect more operators to launch Gigabit LTE globally over the next year and a half, as it offers higher bandwidth to consumers and very efficient use of spectrum for operators. Sprint launched the first Gigabit LTE service for mobile devices in New Orleans in March 2017. Telstra launched a Gigabit LTE mobile hotspot service in Sydney a month earlier, and is expected to support Gigabit LTE mobile devices as they become available. Monaco Telecom launched a mobile Gigabit LTE service in April 2017.
ABI Research expects additional launches to take place this year from all key operators in the US, as well as by some operators in Asia, Europe, and Canada.
“Today, operators globally are in various stages of upgrading their LTE networks,” said Raina. “Over the next four to six years, we expect mobile networks to evolve considerably with the proliferation of LTE Advanced, LTE Advanced Pro, and Gigabit LTE on one hand and the launch of 5G on the other hand.”
Because much of this naturally hinges on device availability, Raina said it was imperative for vendors to “align their competitive strategies with the operators’ network transition timeline as well as alliances in the ecosystem.”