ABI: 4G smartphone sales set to explode

Global shipments of smartphones with embedded 4G are expected to grow at a staggering rate over the next five years, reaching 245 million devices in 2016. Market research and intelligence firm ABI Research recently released 4G smartphone shipment projections that show shipments growing at a compound rate of 72% annually over the next five years. Just 4.6 million 4G smartphones shipped worldwide in 2010 according to the firm, but the rapid deployment of LTE networks combined with consumers’ collective need for speed will see that figure increase dramatically moving forward. “Nearly all of the world’s mobile operators, including the largest, are supporting LTE,” ABI Research analyst Michael Morgan said in a statement. “It is an important driver for the LTE ecosystem that dwarfs any other drivers of 4G in general or of WiMAX and LTE, specifically.” ABI’s full press release follows below.

Business and Technology Complications Keep 4G Smartphones to Just 25% of the Volume in Five Years

NEW YORK – October 10, 2011

Shipments of 4G smartphones are expected to grow from 4.6 million in 2010 to 245 million in 2016. LTE smartphone shipments will surpass WiMAX smartphones in 2011 and grow at a 72% CAGR over the forecast period.  Senior mobile devices analyst, Michael Morgan, notes, “Nearly all of the world’s mobile operators, including the largest, are supporting LTE. It is an important driver for the LTE ecosystem that dwarfs any other drivers of 4G in general or of WiMAX and LTE, specifically.”

4G smartphones are emerging as the next major platform opportunity for mobile operators, device OEMs, IC vendors, network equipment vendors, and content companies. Despite the growing number of 4G-capable device segments, smartphones will remain the largest and most important device segment for incumbents and new entrants. Shipment volumes of 4G smartphones will far surpass all other device segments and will greatly affect the design choices and technology paths of products and services looking to cash in on the 4G opportunity.

Initial 4G smartphones are being brought to market to fulfill strong operator demand in spite of numerous technological and business concerns that have yet to be fully addressed. As the 4G device ecosystem charges forward, questions around spectrum allocation and alignment loom over operators and device OEMs seeking to maximize their addressable markets and achieve economies of scale. Despite the superior spectrum alignment and lower component costs of WiMAX technologies, operators are supporting LTE smartphones and hoping that LTE eventually delivers the most robust device ecosystem.

“Mobile operators prefer to support LTE over WiMAX since it makes the most sense strategically to put their weight behind the technology that is best suited to maintaining the status quo among wireless network incumbents,” says Kevin Burden, vice president and practice director, mobile networks.

ABI Research’s new report, “4G Smartphones,” highlights key drivers and barriers faced by market participants in the emerging 4G (LTE & WiMAX) smartphone markets. Regional and country level forecasts demonstrate the potential market value for 4G smartphones and 4G IC vendors.

It is part of ABI Research’s Smartphones and Mobile Devices Research Service.

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