Apple's iPhone 5 and Samsung's Galaxy smartphones have provided LTE-enabled handset shipments a substantial lift in 2012 – even if it has not necessarily assisted the 4G mobile operators with "each and every" LTE handset sold.
When 3G handsets came into the market in 2003 and 2004, there was pretty much a 1:1 correlation between a 3G handset sold and a subscription upgraded from 2G to 3G. "That is not happening with every LTE handset sale," said Jake Saunders, VP – forecasting at ABI Research. "But carriers should not be panicking – it is seeding the market with 4G handsets. A number of purchasers are simply coveting their favorite "Brand" and/or carrying out a much needed update to one of their key fashion accessories."
All this purchasing momentum is expected to have boosted LTE-enabled handsets to 91 million units by the close of 2012 and the balance coming from other mobile devices. Almost 95% of handsets shipped can be attributed to the North American and Asia-Pacific market. LTE USB-Dongles may have found their way under the Christmas tree for consumers, and also put on IT department purchase orders for businesses, but at 6 million units, they were overshadowed by LTE smartphone sales. Media tablet sales are proving robust. However ABI Research estimate only 3.35 million media tablets shipped with LTE since the majority of media tablet purchasers are proving price sensitive and happy to settle for Wi-Fi-only.
"New sign-ups and conversion of 3G subscribers with LTE-capable handsets should gather pace in 2013 and 2014. By 2017 we are anticipating 785 LTE million subscribers, up from 58 million at the end of 2012 – generating $14 billion in annual service revenues," added Phil Solis, research director.