The total global LTE subscription base is predicted to reach 1.3 billion by the end of 2018, up from 188.6 million at the end of this year, according to Informa Telecoms & Media.

Informa's individual country forecasts indicate that the USA will be the largest market for LTE throughout the forecast period, rising from 89.8 million LTE subscriptions at the end of 2013 to 242.1 million at the end of 2018, a CAGR of 22%.

Driving the global momentum to LTE is operators' commitment to enhancing their mobile broadband capabilities: 83.4% of operators responding to a survey by Informa Telecoms & Media conducted in 2Q and 3Q on LTE launch strategies believe that there is a viable business case to launch LTE today and one-third said that they plan to launch LTE this year. In the survey results, the main reasons given by the operator respondents pertain to gaining a competitive advantage by launching LTE, that is: current networks don't offer sufficient capacity; users want greater speeds; and operators want to create new revenue streams using LTE.

"LTE is providing operators with a new lease of life, and not just in terms of being able to offer an improved user experience, a chance to sharpen branding messages and an opportunity to differentiate themselves from rivals," says Paul Lambert, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. "Operators are also seeing changes in consumer behavior, and the initial signs are that LTE users are consuming more data than 3G customers: 28% of the operator respondents said they saw an increase in data usage of 11% or more when a subscriber migrates to 3G."

According to Informa's research, how operators position LTE relative to 3G, in particular in terms of pricing and marketing, is the single most important component of their LTE launch strategy.



"The most successful LTE operators have shown that not charging a premium for LTE is the key ingredient in ensuring LTE subscription take-up," says Lambert. "Even if they price their LTE services on a par with 3G, LTE operators nonetheless have to position the new network in new ways to ensure they realize the maximum value from their investments in the LTE network."

Speed and latency, and quality are the main ways operators can differentiate LTE from 3G, according to operator respondents to the survey. In terms of specific services, video is, by far, the service type that operators are seeing drive the greatest volume of traffic on LTE networks.

Informa's latest research into LTE examines how the successful LTE operators launched their networks and marketed 4G technology and, crucially, what impact LTE is having on operators' KPIs.

"Evidence from the market indicates that successful 4G operators have approached LTE-network launches initially as a platform to enhance the mobile-broadband experience rather than to generate new revenues by charging more for access to the network," says Lambert. "By enhancing the end-user experience of accessing the Internet on the go without charging more for access, successful LTE operators are seeing that people use Internet services while mobile more than they did over 3G. Because of this increase in usage, operators are seeing improvements in KPIs."

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