U.S. emerges as global 4G LTE leader after less than a year

A country that was recently the butt of jokes due to its ongoing reliance on CDMA networks now finds itself a global leader in next-generation cellular technology. According to a new report from Pyramid Research, the United States will account for the largest share of 4G LTE subscriptions in the world this year. Twenty-six carriers around the globe have launched LTE networks thus far according to the GSA, but just three will account for 47% of all LTE connections in 2011: Verizon Wireless, MetroPCS and AT&T. Read on for more.

Pyramid analyst Emily Smith estimates that U.S. carriers will be responsible for 7 million of the 14.9 million LTE subscriptions expected around the world this year. The analyst sees U.S. sales of devices with embedded LTE radios topping 5.4 million units in 2011 to represent 71% of global LTE device sales, and she attributes much of LTE’s success here to Verizon’s rapid deployment. Smith also says the strong demand in the U.S. for mobile broadband will allow Verizon Wireless to recoup its LTE investments more quickly than other carriers around the world.

Smith uses NTT Docomo as a basis for comparison, noting that both carriers launched their LTE networks in December 2010. “Although Verizon’s LTE network will cover 60% of the population by year end, because the operator is pulling in so much revenue, capex only represented 14.7% of revenue over the past four quarters,” Smith wrote on Pyramid’s blog. “By comparison, NTT Docomo will cover a mere 20% of the Japanese population with LTE by March 2012, even though capex represented a larger 15.8% of revenue in the year ending March 2011.”

Comparison of leading operators in the US, Japan, and South Korea

Source: Pyramid Research

Verizon Wireless first launched 4G LTE service in 38 cities on December 5th, 2010. The carrier announced this past Monday that it will offer LTE coverage in a total of 178 U.S. cities by November 17th of this year.

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