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Just NINE per cent of Asia Pac operators have commercial 4G

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Asia Pacific mobile operators have caught up their rivals in North America and Europe but only nine per cent have commercial 4G LTE networks up and running, according to new research from analyst ABI Research.

The firm’s latest study, Asia CapEx, Core & Radio Access Network Infrastructure Forecasts, beats the drum for a region which it says lagged behind other parts of the world 10 years ago, despite advanced pockets such as Japan and South Korea.

However, despite the rosy outlook, things are still not moving as fast as punters would probably like. Of the 110 networks ABI looked at, just 10 operators (9 per cent) have deployed commercial 4G LTE networks, while 58 (53 per cent) have ‘plans’ to roll out LTE or are conducting trials.

The analyst estimates total capital expenditure for operators in the region will hit $53.3 billion (£33.2bn) by the end of the year.

“Sixty-two per cent is still very much earmarked for radio access network deployment,” said vice president of forecasting Jake Saunders in a canned statement.

“Other key investment areas include EPC and gateway upgrades to the core network at 9 per cent, as well as improving in-building wireless coverage into dense urban centres at 5.7 per cent.”

The report highlights Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore as all having commercial 4G networks up and running while Australia, Japan and South Korea are also steaming ahead with roll-outs.

Rather optimistically, it references Indian operator Bharti Airtel – which has launched 4G in Kolkata and is planning to deploy in Bangalore later this year – and China’s ambitious plans to ramp up base station coverage.

Commercial 4G is still a couple of years away in the People’s Republic, though, and it probably pays to view the stats on roll-outs in other countries with a little restraint.

The GSA’s most recent figures, released in January, claim 49 commercial 4G roll-outs in 29 countries with a target of 119 in over 50 countries by the end of the year, although we’re still years away from the point where coverage in most of these countries is anywhere near nationwide.

Things are definitely hotting up though – ABI is predicting 87 million 4G devices, including dongles, smartphones and portable hotspots, will be sold this year, up 294 per cent from 2011. ®

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