With the mobile telecom landscape changing rapidly, the nationwide 4G deployments is almost near completion in most markets across the world. But the race is far from over - The first Gigabit LTE networks have started to appear and offer super fast connections to end users with download speeds of up to 1Gbps. Fueled by these results, ABI Research, which provides business leaders with comprehensive research and consulting services to help them make decisions, has estimated that the two billion global 4G (LTE) subscribers in early 2017 will rise to exceed four billion in 2022. This means that more than one out of two people globally will be using an LTE network by 2022.
Although 5G discussions and embryonic developments are well under way, ABI Research expects LTE networks to be the backbone of broadband connectivity for many years to come. In terms of total mobile traffic, the group estimates a total of 109 Exabytes to be transferred during 2016, rising to 522 Exabytes during 2022. This means that an average user consumes 1.2 GB per month today and will consume more than 5.7 GB per month in 2022.
LTE is and will remain dominant throughout the forecast period. It carries 67% of total mobile traffic today, and will increase to 82% during 2022, while 5G will carry a mere 13% of total mobile data. At the same time, operator profitability is under pressure. The Average Revenue per User per month (ARPU) in the U.S.(the most lucrative mobile market) is approximately $43 today and will decrease to less than $35 during 2022. Network operator CAPEX is also under pressure and will continue to decrease until 2019, after which 5G deployments will ramp up.
According to ABI Research trackers, 60 operators are twilighting 2G and 38 operators are sunsetting 3G networks, meaning no more investments in network upgrades, but in many cases consolidating infrastructure and 2G/3G combinations with 4G. Some upgrades also prepare the ground for 5G as many vendors start to offer 5G-ready infrastructure with future upgrades being currently planned.