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Carriers plan to keep gouging subscribers on voice plans despite LTE revenue boost

Although 4G LTE makes delivering data cheaper on a per-gigabyte basis, many wireless carriers are in no rush to give up their lucrative voice plans in favor of folding their voice services into their LTE data packages. The latest carrier survey from Infonetics Research shows that carriers are increasingly seeing average revenue per user (ARPU) go up as a result of deploying LTE as their data technology, as greater spectral efficiencies on LTE networks are sending data transmission costs downward. However, Infonetics says that roughly one-third of carriers surveyed said they “plan to use their 2G and 3G networks for voice services as long as possible.” So even though LTE gives carriers the ability to deliver voice as a data application and even though LTE is making carriers more profitable, they aren’t willing to give up that voice plan revenue just yet. Surprise, surprise.

A first: Increased ARPU now a top driver for LTE upgrades

Campbell, CALIFORNIA, August 14, 2012—Market research firm Infonetics Research released excerpts from its 2012 LTE Deployment Strategies: Global Service Provider Survey, for which incumbent, competitive, and mobile operators were interviewed about their Long Term Evolution (LTE) network drivers, deployment plans, challenges, and service offerings.

“Despite the global gloom, there are better days ahead for mobile operators,” notes Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research. “For the first time since we began tracking LTE in 2008, increased average revenue per user (ARPU) is among the top LTE upgrade drivers, along with spectral efficiencies that are driving down the cost per gigabyte. As a result, operators’ bottom line should improve for a change.”

  • Almost 1/3 of the operators that Infonetics surveyed plan to use their 2G and 3G networks for voice services as long as possible
  • TD-LTE continues to gain momentum, spearheaded by China Mobile’s participation in the LTE standards process
  • Single radio voice call continuity (SRVCC) is on track to become commercially available in Fall 2012, but 84% of operators surveyed don’t expect the feature to be ready this year
  • EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) leads in the number of LTE deployments worldwide, while North America is home to 80% of the more than 10 million global LTE subscribers


For its LTE Deployment Strategies: Global Service Provider Survey, Infonetics interviewed incumbent, competitive, and mobile operators about their LTE network build-out plans, deployment migration scenarios, challenges, technical and commercial drivers, and the LTE services, features, and devices they plan to offer. Service providers surveyed together represent 31% of the world’s telecom capital expenditures (capex) and 29% of the world’s telecom carrier revenue, and come from EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), North America, Asia Pacific, and CALA (Caribbean and Latin America). To buy the survey, contact Infonetics sales:

Prior to joining BGR as News Editor, Brad Reed spent five years covering the wireless industry for Network World. His first smartphone was a BlackBerry but he has since become a loyal Android user.