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Summary:

The number of new LTE devices is up 76 percent in the past three months but tablets, not smartphones, are driving more of this growth. Carriers are mistakenly feeling the strong need to fight back against lower-priced, no contract Wi-Fi slates as tablet sales rise.

LG-Optimus-Pad-LTE-Tablet

Device makers are wasting no time in making products available for next generation LTE networks. In an updated report, the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) finds that 347 LTE devices have launched, an increase of 76 percent from six months ago. Tablets, not smartphones, are driving more of this recent growth, however, indicating that carriers feel the strong need to fight back against lower-priced, no contract Wi-Fi slates.

Fierce Wireless looked deeper within the GSA report, which is available for download here, and found many other stats indicating that the LTE product ramp up is on in earnest:

  • The number of new LTE smartphones is up 33 percent since the beginning of this year.
  • About one-sixth — 53 devices — are LTE-TDD capable.
  • There are currently 64 LTE smartphones available.
  • The number of LTE capable tablets (31 in total) has increased by 72 percent since Jan. 20, 2012.
  • 217 of the 347 LTE devices can fall back to HSPA networks with 91 of those supporting 42 Mbps HSPA+
  • 108 of the 347 fall back to EV-DO 3G networks.
  • 172 devices support the 700 MHz band, largely used in the U.S. but more will eventually support 800- , 1800- and 2600 MHz networks in Europe and elsewhere.

Having grown up watching 3G devices arrive with their supporting networks just a decade ago, the pace of LTE device availability is astonishing, but not surprising. Ten years ago, mobile Internet access was akin to having a cellular phone ten years before that: Mainly a luxury item relegated to just a few.

Fast forward to present day and in many regions, mobile internet access is a central part of everyday life for the masses. The demand for such high speed devices is so great, we even have carriers launching their LTE phones before the supporting LTE network is ready for them. Case in point: This week Sprint announced both the Evo 4G LTE and the LG Viper, with rumors of the Galaxy Nexus pegged for introduction later this month!

I’m sure a fair number of readers will disagree with me, but I’m leaning strongly towards tablets with Wi-Fi only in the U.S. The lone exception would be Apple’s iPad with LTE, mainly because of the data pricing model. Consumers don’t want two-year contracts, even if the network can provide speeds faster than some home broadband connections. Carriers should realize this since 90 percent of all tablets are reportedly Wi-Fi models.

We’ll see how the LTE market works out, but with the increasing number of smartphones that can serve as hotspots, not to mention MiFi devices that also share a mobile broadband connection there’s less need for mobile broadband in tablets.

Yes, some users want or need an always-on connection for their tablet. And carriers would love to sell those in mass quantities to reap the recurring monthly fee. But the technology cycle for mobile devices is churning far too quickly to make most of these subsidized 3G or LTE tablets more appealing that Wi-Fi for most. Thoughts?

  1. i really do not see the point, at least in the US with the current data plans.

    the things that really work better you can not buy enough data for. such as streaming HD video and multi-device tethering(the absolute killer app that LTE really makes much better)

  2. Smith Osmond Friday, April 6, 2012

    Both are becoming increasingly common in everyday life, with immersive 3D movies hitting our screens and gadgets such as the android tablets pc making touch screens that recognise gestures commonplace

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