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LTE subscribers to hit 300 million by 2015

With heavy growth expected to continue, users of the 4G wireless broadband service will reach about 300 million in another five years, says Juniper Research.

The number of people who subscribe to LTE next-generation wireless broadband services is expected to reach 300 million by 2015, compared with 500,000 this year, according to a report released Wednesday by Juniper Research.

As the mobile industry attempts to ramp up deployments of LTE, short for Long Term Evolution, the real surge probably won't sink in until 2012, says Juniper's report, "4G LTE Hardware Opportunities: Subscribers, End User Devices & Vendor Strategies 2010-2015." But companies are prepping now as they grapple with strains on their current 2G and 3G networks from data-hungry customers.

Juniper Research

Countries with the greatest GDP will drive the jump in LTE, says Juniper, which predicts that the top three regions--North America, Western Europe, and the Far East and China--will account for 90 percent of LTE subscribers in another five years.

But on a more global scale, LTE access will reach only about 1 in 20 subscribers across all developed nations by that time. Initially, LTE will likely be offered as a premium-level service in business and urban areas and as a way to deal with overcapacity of existing networks.

"Although 1 in 20 globally is low overall, in fact our research found that usage levels will be significantly higher in other regions, such as North America, where it will be closer to 1 in 5 as major operators plan rollouts in the next six months," Juniper analyst and report author Howard Wilcox said in a statement.

Other studies have forecast a surge in the number of LTE users, with research firm Maravedis calling for 200 million by 2015. Competing with WiMax to become the primary next-generation 4G technology, LTE has been adopted by some of the major carriers, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Both have been busy prepping their respective deployments, with AT&T promising commercial availability in 2011 and Verizon Wireless working to roll out LTE in certain cities by the end of this year.