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There has been an explosive growth in the number of 4G network users worldwide in 2015. According to TrendForce’s projection, the sales of the global 4G-enabled smartphones will reach 450 million units worldwide this year. The convenience and seamless connection of the mobile network encourages consumer usage, while the increasing penetration of 4G-enabled smartphones also drives user growth of 4G mobile networks. Once network service providers have completed their infrastructure layouts, opportunities in the end device market will shift from data transfer equipment (i.e. routers) to smartphones.
“4G LTE offers speedy and quality experience for consumers accessing cloud storage services,” said Kelly Hsieh, senior manager for mobile communication and end device research at TrendForce. “The huge improvement in data transfer speed that comes with 4G networks allows more computing functions to take place in the Cloud. Thus, demand for building of new data centers also rises as Google, IBM, HP and other cloud service providers increases their bandwidth needs.”
At the same time, telecom operators are launching a new generation of mobile voice services to boost their ARPU (average revenue per user). Two technological solutions have emerged: VoLTE and VoWiFi. VoLTE is an IP-based solution on the 4G LTE network that can carry voice communication. It brings about multimedia messaging services between individuals and for groups since it supports high-definition voice and video calling. VoWiFi, on the other hand, uses Wi-Fi to send and receive phone calls. VoWiFi can reduce networking costs by enlarging coverage area and increasing the usage of wireless network bandwidth. China Mobile, the world’s largest telecom operator, is actively extending its VoLTE network across China and aims for service coverage of 18 major domestic cities by the end of 2015. By the end of this August, China Mobile had signed up 229 million 4G mobile network subscribers and built over 940,000 4G base stations. In addition to offering a wide range of 4G-enabled smartphones, China Mobile is developing technology that allows consumers to switch easily between TD-LTE and FDD LTE mode.
As telecom operators are under challenge to expand their mobile network capacities, they have been aggressively developing LTE-U (LTE in unlicensed spectrum). Major U.S. telecom operators such as Verizon and T-Mobile USA plan to launch 4G network services using LTE-U by 2016. Similar to Wi-Fi, LTE-U operates on unlicensed radio frequency spectrums, including 5GHz and spectrums under 1GHz. By using these spectrums, service providers can effectively increase their mobile network capacities. As for high-frequency, millimeter-wave spectrums (28GHz and above), they can be used to extend outdoor roaming capability. However, network signals on high-frequency spectrums are unable to directly enter buildings and require small cell to maintain coverage over an indoor area. Thus, development technologies based on high-frequency spectrums will also accelerate the demand growth for small cell.