GSMA: 87M LTE Subs by 2014

The GSM Association (GSMA) is predicting that there will be 87 million subscribers using high-speed Long-Term Evolution (LTE) services by 2014 but that High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 3G networks will provide a much bigger cushion for users to fall back on by then.

The GSMA's director of technology, Dan Warren, dropped in on Unstrung this week to talk expected network numbers in the coming years of mobile broadband. One thing that emerged is that the trade body is expecting that the new-ish 3G technology will be with us long after after LTE is up and running.

"HSPA is becoming comparable to GSM and W-CDMA," Warren claims. "Its commercial lifespan is very long."

Warren says that there are around 167 million HSPA connections. He expects that to grow to "about a billion" in 2012 and up to 1.5 billion in 2014.

The association sees 2013 or 2014 as the point when LTE will really take off, even if early rollouts will happen prior to that date. "Initially, the majority of LTE deployments will be focused on data," Warren says.

This, he believes, is why HSPA networks will have legs for the majority of operators upgrading to LTE. "I don't expect HSPA investment to stop when LTE starts," Warren opines.

This is because, in the medium term, operators will depend on 2G and 3G networks for voice coverage and as a "fall-back" mobile broadband network supporting smaller "islands" of higher-speed LTE coverage.

"The consumer just wants a service that allows them to access what they want, be that Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook," suggests Warren.

The market is already starting to see silicon vendors gear up for a multi-mode future for LTE. Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) announced Thursday that it has started sampling chipsets that support LTE as well as a parcel of 3G standards, including HSPA+ and CDMA EV-DO Rev A.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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