4G to cover more than 4 billion people by 2015

ABI Research projects LTE, WiMAX will spread rapidly over next five years

More than 60% of the world's population will have access to some form of 4G mobile broadband technology by 2015, according to a new report from ABI Research.

More than 60% of the world's population will have access to some form of 4G mobile broadband technology by 2015, according to a new report from ABI Research.

4G definition creates marketing free-for-all

ABI analyst Neil Strother says that between LTE and WiMAX, 4G technologies will reach an estimated 4.4 billion people within the next five years. This is more than double the 2 billion people today who currently have access to 3G mobile data technologies such as HSPA or EV-DO Rev. A, he says. ABI estimates that around 770 million users around the world today have access to either WiMAX or LTE services.

"Operators around the world are realizing that fast data speeds are going to be important to them going forward," says Strother, who also notes that by 2015 there will be three different iterations of both LTE and WiMAX on the market. "The demand for mobile data services will not go away and that's especially apparent in emerging markets that don't have wireline infrastructure. For them, wireless is a big driver."

4G technologies such as LTE and WiMAX represent the next stage in the evolution of wireless data technologies and generally deliver average download rates of 3Mbps or higher. In contrast, today's 3G networks typically deliver average download speeds about one-tenth of that rate.

Sprint is currently the only major carrier to offer 4G services in the United States as its WiMAX network has been up and running commercially for more than a year. Verizon is expected to officially launch its 4G LTE services in 38 U.S. markets covering around 110 million points of presence next month. By the end of 2013, Verizon plans to have all of its current base stations hooked up with LTE capabilities, meaning that most of the United States will be able to receive LTE coverage. AT&T and T-Mobile have both committed to launch their own 4G LTE networks sometime in 2011, though neither carrier has made any official announcements about when their networks are expected to come online.

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