Long Term Evolution (LTE) handsets will pick up ten times more shipments this year; however, network adoption within the United Kingdom will not be as smooth as expected.
Strategy Analytics has claimed that shipments of LTE-capable handsets will reach the 67 million mark this year, which will be tenfold from last year’s unit shipments.
However, the analyst firm said in an interview with The INQUIRER that the industry must sweep over obstacles before the deployment of LTE networks in the UK.
“The evidence of countries that have already rolled-out LTE is that both operators and handset vendors are keen to get LTE products to market as soon as the network can support them,” said Scott Bicheno, Senior Analyst at Strategy Analytics. “However, as the response of some UK operators to the recent Ofcom 4G announcement implies, there are still some hurdles to overcome before LTE is rolled-out in the UK.”
Bicheno cited the recent green light that Ofcom provided Everything Everywhere to use a portion of its 3G spectrum for LTE network preparation, which was met with unfavorable judgment from UK mobile operator Vodafone, claiming below the belt advantage for its competitor.
“The LTE phone segment is expanding at a rapid rate this year, but there will undoubtedly be growing pains in this early phase,” said Tom Kang, Director at Strategy Analytics. “Many LTE phones and data plans will be relatively expensive, which means operators will need to invest generous subsidies to make 4G more affordable for subscribers. Meanwhile, consumers will be concerned about LTE usability issues, such as shortened battery life, excessive device weight or sudden bill shock caused by high data consumption.”
While Kang was accurate to comment that UK mobile operators require low-priced data plans to drive LTE adoption, Bicheno said that after the deployment of LTE networks, sales of supported handset would grow faster.
Bicheno added, “The research summarized in our announcement shows a rapid growth in LTE phone shipments in those countries – such as the US, Japan and South Korea – which have rolled-out LTE networks, so the cadence would need to be measured in months rather than years. We expect the ‘growing pains’ detailed by Kang in our press release to apply across all geographies.”
Figures from Strategy Analytics hint a craving for handsets that support LTE networks in countries that have it. Phone makers have to straighten out battery life first, and then consumers will need convincing that the new technology not only offers a next-generation overall mobile performance, but also comes with decent network coverage.