Who’s Going to Win the LTE Race?

It is only a matter of weeks before Verizon (s VZ) launches its much-awaited, LTE-based, wireless network, joining the ranks of a handful of wireless companies worldwide which have deployed 4G networks — Metro PCS, Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, Sweden’s TeliaSonera and Tele2. This is only the tip of the iceberg, for over next five years, dozens of Long Term Evolution networks are expected to launch.

So which equipment maker is the big winner in the LTE sweepstakes? The 2G wireless hardware market was dominated by Motorola (s MOT), Ericsson (s ERIC) and Nokia (s NOK), collectively called M.E.N. of the telecom world. The rise of 3G opened up opportunities for companies like Nortel, Alcatel-Lucent (s ALU) and Siemens (s si). The next big wireless shift is going to be dominated by a handful of players as well.

This time there is a new sheriff in town; Chinese vendor Huawei is one of the early leaders in the LTE sweepstakes. The company currently accounts for 36 percent of the contracts for LTE equipment, according to Telegeography, a market research firm. In terms of sheer size (and dollars), however, Ericsson is the big player as it has been supplying gear to some of the largest LTE-rollouts in the world.

Most of Ericsson’s deals are in the more mature markets, while Huawei is going for high growth markets such as China. Ericsson has managed to snag 18 contracts, including deals with TeliaSonera, Vodafone Germany and China Mobile. However, Chinese operators aren’t likely to roll out their networks before 2012. Nokia Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent, with 16 percent and 14 percent of the total market (by number of contracts signed.)

Here are some facts about LTE you might be interested in:

  • The total LTE infrastructure market will top $5 billion in 2013. (Infonetics Research)
  • The LTE infrastructure market is forecast to reach $11.4 billion by 2014. (Infonetics Research)
  • LTE subscribers could exceed 72 million by 2013. (Infonetics Research)
  • LTE subscribers could exceed 153 million by 2014. (Infonetics Research)
  • TeliaSonera says the average LTE user so far is consuming 15 GB of data every month.
  • The number of users of next-generation LTE technology in the Asia-Pacific region is forecast to surpass 120 million by 2015. (Wireless Intelligence)
  • A total of 132 operators in 56 countries are currently investing in LTE for next-generation networks.

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