It’s a Long Way to Widespread LTE

It’s going to take almost 10 years for the sale of LTE devices to overtake 3G devices, according to an analyst who follows the industry. Keith Mallinson, founder of WiseHarbor, estimates the tipping point between LTE and 3G will occur in 2019 and said the U.S. will be an early leader when it comes to deploying the technology, in part because of the National Broadband Plan’s reliance on mobile. Mallinson also expects China to move quickly to LTE because its largest mobile operator, China Mobile, doesn’t like being forced to use Chinese-developed 3G technology.

In the last few days, I’ve received several LTE reality checks, such as the forecast that by 2014 there will only be 150 million LTE subscriptions, or AT&T’s (s T) belief that true LTE handsets that are as diverse in features as the current 3G handsets won’t even hit the market until 2014 (even though Verizon (s vz) is bringing five LTE handsets to market next year).

Still, I’m optimistic, mostly because I can see faster speeds on the horizon. For those upset at my focus on speeds at the expense of network quality and capacity, I’m encouraged by LTE for two reasons: The technology itself is more efficient, which means we can cram more bits into each hertz, but it’s also being deployed in new spectrum, which will help meet capacity and bandwidth needs. Of course, it’s not going to provide the quality or consistency of wireline broadband, but expecting that would be kind of like believing in the tooth fairy.

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