The Asia-Pacific region has overtaken North America as the home to the largest number 4G broadband wireless subscribers. According to figures from TeleGeography’s 4G Research Service, there were around 1.7 million pre-WiMAX and WiMAX customers in Asia at the end of March 2010 compared to 1.4 million in the US and Canada. With the global 4G subscriber total standing at more than 5.7 million, the Asia-Pacific region now accounts for 29% of the overall market, up from 22% a year earlier and just 6% at the end of 2006.
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Although all areas are experiencing 4G subscriber growth, WiMAX technology is proving particularly attractive to operators in Asia. It is relatively cheap to deploy and can bypass the last-mile fixed access networks, which in many cases are still dominated by the incumbent operators. TeleGeography analyst Peter Bell commented, “There is massive potential for high speed internet access in Asia, and WiMAX broadband wireless networks are witnessing strong demand. Growth is coming not just in developing markets like India, but also in more developed markets such as Japan where broadband internet penetration is already relatively high.”
Eastern Europe is the third largest 4G market, with approximately 1.1 million subscribers at the end of March 2010. Growth in Eastern Europe has been driven by operators such as Yota in Russia. While Yota plans to convert their networks from WiMAX to Long Term Evolution (LTE) cellular technology in the future, that migration is still some way off, giving WiMAX technology an opportunity to establish a strong market presence in the meantime.
The 4G Research Service is TeleGeography’s online database of the LTE and WiMAX industry. The service tracks LTE and WiMAX competition and deployments in more than 140 countries, and profiles more than 650 companies that operate or are planning 4G networks.