MWC 2016: 4G Reaches 1bn Connections But GSMA Warns Of Future Saturation

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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GSMA says network builds are accelerating 4G adoption but says operators must plan for future as saturation point for many markets nears

There are now more than one billion LTE connections worldwide, according to the GSMA, which predicts 4G will account for a third of all mobile connections by the end of the decade.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, the industry body said the increasing availability of 4G networks was helping to boost numbers with the number of LTE subscriptions doubling in 2015.

There are now 451 active 4G networks in 141 countries, half of which are in the developing world.

Read More: What are 5G networks?

GSMA LTE subscriptions

4G (c) De Mango, Shutterstock 2013In total, the GSMA expects there to 5.6 billion unique subscribers by 2020 – up from 4.7 billion in 2015 – and 9 billion connections in total, but the organisation warns that market saturation will mean operators need to invest in 5G and the Internet of Things to maintain growth.

“We are already seeing operators in highly penetrated developed markets seeking to offset slowing unique subscriber growth by evolving and broadening business models and investing in new network technologies, services and digital ecosystems,” said Hyunmi Yang, Chief Strategy Officer at the GSMA.

“As new services continue to develop on mobile platforms, operators worldwide must ensure that they capitalise on the opportunities presented by the vast and growing ecosystem that nearly universal global mobile connectivity has created.”

“The unprecedented growth in mobile broadband last year is testament to the billions of dollars that mobile operators have invested in next-generation networks, services and spectrum in recent years,” added Mats Granryd. “Mobile is now the most ubiquitous platform for people and businesses to connect and innovate in today’s digital economy.”

The GSMA says the mobile industry added $3.1 trillion (£2.2tn) in economic value to the global economy in 2015, equivalent to 4.2 percent of GDP.

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