4G subscriber adoption is primed to take off in 2012 as a range of 4G-enabled mobile devices are shipping from assembly line to retail stores. “4G devices are expected to generate 87 million in unit sales in 2012, up 294% year-on-year,” states Jake Saunders, vice president of forecasting, ABI Research. “The lion’s share of the market is now backing LTE as service provider and vendor support has fallen away from WiMAX.” Observing the success of 3G cellular services, 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 worked through.
Some operators in Western Europe have stated that while customers do recognize 4G offers higher speeds, they are not necessarily signing up in droves, as many of them are not prepared to pay the premium for 4G handsets and 4G tariffs. “High definition,” from video streaming to richer, more interactive/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 10 to 20 percent 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,” comments Philip Solis, research director, mobile devices. “Nevertheless, in addition to 61 million 4G handsets being shipped in 2012, we estimate 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.”