GSMA: Carriers will end 2013 with 176M LTE connections – almost half of them in the U.S.

Source: Shutterstock / Pavel Ignatov

This year was a good year for LTE subscriber growth. According GSMA Intelligence, the GSM Association’s research arm, global mobile carriers are on pace to end the year with 176 million LTE connections. That growth is significant, considering the GSMA recorded 100 million LTE connections in May, and there were only a measly 27 million total LTE links in June of 2012.

Some 46 percent of those subscribers will be in the U.S., where all four nationwide operators have launched new 4G networks, the new GSMA report found. But the leader in LTE adoption is South Korea, which has converted half of its connections over to the new technology. LTE penetration in the U.S. is about 20 percent, but the U.S. has a much larger population.

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In fact, the 4G landscape is still dominated by those two countries plus Japan, accounting for 80 percent of all connections. But a lot of new LTE networks have gone online this year in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. The GSMA now calculates that 20 percent of the world’s population is touched by an LTE signal. As carriers running those networks start bringing 4G subscribers aboard, LTE connections will become more evenly distributed.

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The GSMA is revising its four-year projections up from 900 million to 1 billion LTE subscribers in 2017. If the GSMA is right, that would mean one out of every eight mobile links would be through an LTE radio.

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