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The total number of TD-LTE subscribers worldwide increased to 12.48 million at the end of the first quarter of 2014 and will increase to 70.4 million at the end of the year, according to Digitimes Research.

Saudi Arabia-based Mobily accounted for 28.2% of the 12.48 million subscribers, followed by Japan-based SoftBank Mobile with 27.5%, China-based China Mobile with 22.4% and Saudi Telecom Company with 10.8%, Digitimes Research indicated.

Interestingly, US-based Sprint, which is rolling out TD-LTE on its 2.6 GHz Clearwire frequencies, was not listed among the major hitters.

As of the end of the first quarter of 2014, 53% of TD-LTE networks around the world were dual-mode (both Frequency Division and Time Division) and many TD-LTE operators had transformed their operations from unpaired WiMAX frequencies.

The dominant global band for TD-LTE devices will be at 2.6 GHz.

A total of 1.2 billion smartphones are expected to be shipped this year, up 29 percent from a year ago, TrendForce said in a research note. In addition to Qualcomm and HiSilicon Technologies, Marvell, MediaTek and Intel will launch multi-mode, including TD-LTE-supporting, 4G chip solutions in the second half of 2014.

ZTE claims it is now the “leading vendor” of 4G infrastructure to China Mobile and following the launch of new LTE multiband smartphones this year, ZTE forecasts that 4G devices will account for 40 per cent of total terminal shipments in 2014.

After spending more than $US2.75 billion on 4.3 million WiFi hot spots, China Mobile has quit the rollout and will redirect its spending to LTE. The hotspots are good at generating traffic, but hopeless at generating income, with ARPU of just $US2.58 per month. China Mobile hopes to have 500,000 LTE basestations installed by the end of 2014.

In South Korea, according to the latest more conservative figures, KT, the second-largest mobile carrier there, had 107,097 LTE base stations, compared to the largest carrier, SK Telecom with 63,885 and LG Uplus with 37,619 LTE basestations.

Sprint is working with rural partners for deployment of 2.5 GHz LTE. Using its new 8T8R radio heads combined with carrier aggregation, companies like VTel expect to see a significant speed boost, especially for fixed LTE deployment.

The total number of TD-LTE subscribers will grow to 179.8 million at the end of 2015 and to 276.2 million at the end of 2016, predicts Digitimes Research.

There are expected to be some 300 million LTE subscribers by the end of 2014 with some 70 million TD-LTE subs. TD-LTE subs are expected to grow faster than FD-LTE subs as China and India come online, although paired frequency FD-LTE is expected to remain dominant.

Currently most LTE subscribers are using paired frequencies, with AT&T and Verizon major FD-LTE players in the United States on the 700 MHz bands. Verizon said the total number of LTE devices on its network was about 48 million in the first quarter of 2014. Some 57 percent of AT&T’s 100 million customers used an LTE-capable device at the end of the first quarter.

LTE connections will total 1 billion by 2017, according to a new study by Juniper Research, and reach 1.8 billion by 2019 – representing 22% of the global active mobile connections. By 2019, Juniper said the Far East and China will generate the majority of LTE service revenues.

Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, introduced by Zuckerberg at MWC 2014, spoke of “promising results” achieved with “free access” at Globe in the Philippines and Tigo in Paraguay. Free access to Facebook and other services, such as Wikipedia and weather information, may be an inducement to paid data services.

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