Amid growing 5G deployment, LTE growth remains strong
According to 5G Americas, global LTE subscriptions are nearing 5 billion worldwide, and there have been a quarter billion new LTE connections added around the world in the second quarter of 2019. The data, gathered by Ovum, shows that operators are continuing to invest in LTE services, reflecting the widespread belief that, even amid growing 5G deployment, LTE will remain highly relevant.
Chris Pearson, president, 5G Americas commented on the excitement around 5G, but added that 4G LTE infrastructure is still being built. “Network operators in many regions of the world are continuing to build out 4G LTE infrastructure at a rapid clip,” he stated.
In fact, in North America, LTE represents 88% of all mobile connections, increased from 82 percent in June 2018.
This pattern of growth can be seen all around the world. Seventy-three percent of networks in the Oceania, Eastern and South Eastern Asia region is LTE, up from 65 percent in June 2018, and Western Europe follows with 55 percent (up from 48 percent). And in Latin America and Caribbean, LTE subscriber growth has gone from 35 percent up to 47 percent.
5G is showing impressive growth in its own right, however. According to TeleGeography, there are 34 3GPP standardized commercial 5G networks globally, with 77 anticipated by the end of 2019. Further, Ovum predicts that by end of 2021, there will be 156 million 5G connections worldwide and 32 million in North America alone.
North America has shown itself to be a market leader in 5G network deployments with four 5G networks deployed as of mid-September 2019, according to TeleGeography. North America also has 19 LTE networks.
Latin America only has one 5G network currently deployed, but 126 LTE networks.
According to Jose Otero, vice president of Latin America and Caribbean, 5G Americas, “LTE growth remains strong in Latin America with several countries surpassing the 60 to 70 percent adoption rate. In the coming years, we see LTE expanding its coverage into less densely populated areas while 5G starts to be adopted in urban centers and the enterprise segment.”
Globally, LTE connections are expected to reach six billion by the year end 2022 before dipping slightly to 5.7 billion in 2023. Significantly, if this projection proves true, in 2023 4G will still be drastically ahead of 5G in terms of subscribers as Ovum forecasts only 1.3 billion 5G subscriber connections in the same year.