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LTE users to hit 1 billion by 2016, says report

The number of global 4G LTE wireless subscribers has skyrocketed from thousands to millions in just three years, and research firm iSuppli predicts that rate of growth will only speed up.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

The rise in worldwide subscribers on 4G LTE has far exceeded expectations. In just three years since its nascent beginnings, the mobile technology has skyrocketed -- going from 600,000 users in 2010 to nearly 100 million subscribers in 2012.

Now, in a new report, market research firm IHS iSuppli is projecting that global users will double in 2013 and that by 2016 LTE will claim more than 1 billion subscribers.

"With LTE emerging as a true global technology standard, its ecosystem now faces both challenges and opportunities," iSuppli's senior analyst for wireless communications, Wayne Lam, said in a statement. "Rapid adoption will drive design innovations, particularly in smartphones, but issues like spectrum fragmentation will also remain an overhang for the LTE industry that requires attention. Overall, however, the LTE space will be less worried about rifts or divisions in technology, and more concerned with laying the foundation for sustained growth across the entire LTE landscape."

In 2010, analysts projected that LTE would reach 300 million users by 2015. But at the rate wireless technology is now proliferating, iSuppli believes it could reach this many people by 2014. Just in the last year LTE subscribers jumped 599 percent from 13.2 million subscribers in 2011 to 92.3 million in 2012. It's projected that LTE users will reach 198.1 million by the end of 2013.

As smartphone technology and apps become increasingly more comprehensive and dependent on faster delivery, wireless infrastructure has to keep up. This has proven difficult in some aspects, according to iSuppli. For example, while 3G registered on just a few spectrums, LTE has registered more than 40 different frequency spectrums so far. So, even though subscribers are multiplying, kinks still need to be ironed out.