U.S. leads the way in LTE subscribers — but not for long

North America has taken the early lead in Long Term Evolution smartphone and modem subscribers, according to a new study by TeleGeography. That should come as little surprise given that the first flurry of LTE 4G deployments took place right here in the U.S., but the report also found that the North America’s LTE lead will be fleeting as Asia ramps up its own activity.

TeleGeography found that Verizon Wireless(s VZ) accounted for 3.1 million LTE subs, about 60 percent of the global total. Though Verizon wasn’t the first global operator to launch an LTE network – TeliaSonera and fellow U.S. provider MetroPCS(s PCS) both beat it – it was the first operator to launch LTE on a grand scale. Meanwhile the rest of the world played catch-up. Of the 39 commercial LTE networks now live, most were launched in 2011, TeleGeography said in its CommsUpdate blog.

But as early as 2013, the Asia-Pacific region will surpass North America with its LTE subscriptions and by the end of 2016 it will account for about 200 million subscribers – almost half of the global total. Given the sheer population of the Asia-Pac region compared to the combined population of the U.S. and Canada, a shift in LTE activity to the East was bound to happen at some point. But it’s happening sooner rather than later thanks to aggressive rollout plans by operators in Japan, South Korea and China.