LTE Grows as Smartphones Dominate Global Market

by Matt Klassen on August 31, 2012

Whether its research that concludes that narcotics use has a deleterious effect on the brain development of teenagers or that caffeine is actually addictive, there seem to be a preponderance of study results I’ve seen of late that are, for lack of a better term, blindly obvious.

The same holds true in the mobile market, where two separate reports from market research firm IHS iSuppli told us two things we could have easily guessed: global smartphone adoption is happening quickly, and 4G LTE technology will grow exponentially over the next couple of years and as a result will spur on device convergence.

While certainly connected, the two reports offer little in the way of what I would call insight, as anyone who has even casually observed the mobile market could tell you that smartphones are quickly becoming the default mobile form factor, and it certainly doesn’t take a mathematician to tell you that when your LTE coverage is still close to zero, any growth is exponential growth.

In regards to the report covering smartphone adoption, over the last few years research firms have been predicting the adoption curve for smartphones, with most concluding that smartphones will become the dominant global mobile form factor some time in the next three or four years. But with smartphones now available at all price points, adoption is happening exponentially faster.

For its part, IHS had previously predicted that smartphones would achieve market dominance sometime in 2016, but have now revised their market outlook, stating that smartphones will account for over half of all mobile sales as early as next year, 2013.

The reason for the revision, according to Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at the firm, is because of the increased availability and affordability of smartphones, stating that smartphones are now available at all price points and the lower-end smartphones are spurring adoption in markets across Asia, while medium and high end smartphones are growing across Europe and North America.

Regarding the growth of 4G LTE technology, is it even news to say that LTE expansion and adoption will grow exponentially over the next few years, given that when LTE coverage is still so close to zero there’s nowhere to go but up. While I’m always wary of growth statistics, in this case simply because LTE growth will be exponential until it establishes itself, the survey goes on to conclude that such radical LTE growth will spur on device convergence, the unification of the user experience across multiple platforms (smartphone, tablet, PC etc…).

It is with device convergence, the report states, that the wheat will be separated from the chaff, so to speak, in the mobile world, with companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple already leading the way in multi-screen common UI experiences, while companies like Nokia and RIM are quickly fading.

In sum, the problem with studies like this is that their results are misleading, at least in reference to LTE growth. At first blush one might conclude that LTE will be a global phenomenon in the next several years, with estimated growth rates of 334% in 2013 alone, but the reality is that’s simply not so. Yes 3G growth has slowed, but that’s because its already established, and yes LTE growth is exponential, because it currently has almost no presence, but the reality is that those conclusion tell us little. Simply put, with countries like India still  trying to stabilize its 2G network infrastructure, it’ll be some time before LTE is anything but a luxury of the privileged.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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