The number of WiMAX and LTE subscribers globally has grown sharply in the past year, according to a study by Canadian research firm Maravedis.
The subscriber base for WiMAX and LTE reached 17.25 million and 320,000 respectively at the end of March 2011, according to the 14th issue of the 4GCounts Quarterly Report from Maravedis.
Some 3.7 million new WiMAX subscribers were added in Q4 2010, and 5.5 million will be added in 2011, the report added.
The WiMAX subscriber increase represents a 32.7% jump quarter over quarter, from 13 million reported at the end of Q4 2010.
Maravedis anticipates that 59 FDD-LTE and 3 LTE TDD networks will be operational worldwide by the end of 2011. "There will be 305 million LTE subscribers by 2016, of which 14%, or 44 million, will be TD-LTE users and the rest (86%, or 261 million) will be FDD-LTE," said Esteban Monturus, co-author of the report.
TD-LTE has gained global momentum and attracted attention to TDD spectrum. Maravedis anticipates that commercial TD-LTE networks could begin in more than 10 countries or areas in 2011-2012, even ahead of China Mobile's deployment.
On the regulatory side, additional spectrum made available for 4G has seen much more progress in GSM refarming than in the digital dividend initiative. The latter is still many years away from full availability.
The report added that besides additional spectrum, there are numerous options that need to be considered by operators as they plan their next-generation access networks.
Femtocells, Wi-Fi, small cells, repeaters, and distributed antenna systems give operators infinite flexibility in how they build and operate their mobile networks.
However, such a wide variety of solutions makes it difficult for operators to plan for the future, which has enormous ramifications for investment strategies. "In this context trial and error is the only realistic way forward until enough experience is gained to establish best practices," said Basharat Ashai, Asia analyst at Maravedis.