Analyst firm ABI Research estimates that there will be nearly 1.37 billion 4G LTE subscribers worldwide by year-end 2015, up from nearly 650 million in 2014.
ABI Research forecasts that the LTE subscriber base will exceed 3.5 billion by 2020, demonstrating a five-year CAGR of 20.8%.
The exponential rise in LTE points-of-presence covered justifies the need for sustained investment in LTE infrastructure, which is expected to grow nearly 10% year-on-year.
Major carriers in the United States are still investing heavily in LTE technology to consolidate their networks. Verizon Wireless is partnering with Ericsson to deploy small cells or micro-base stations to densify its network capabilities, with nearly $500 million allocated for small cells deployment.
Similarly, T-Mobile US is also partnering with Nokia Networks to explore small cell deployments that operate using LTE-Unlicensed technology.
The companies will jointly establish a pre-standards LTE-U solution which uses Nokia Flexi Zone with Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) functionality to provide additional LTE capacity and better network performance.
T-Mobile US will also conduct joint trials with Ericsson on LAA technology or LTE-U in the 5.x GHz band later this year.
Elsewhere in Asia, small cells deployments are also being considered by Singapore telcos to boost surfing speeds in densely populated areas.
The small cells, which are one-eighth the size of traditional base stations can be mounted on ceilings to ease data traffic when an area becomes too congested.
Small cells were already deployed by Singapore telco Singtel in the third quarter of 2014, while the remaining two telcos plan to deploy small cells island-wide to boost their 4G capabilities by 2017.
?Operators can expect to improve their 4G service revenues by investing in small cell technology as users download more mobile data with faster surfing speeds,? commented Cheri Wong, research analyst at ABI Research.
Meanwhile, LTE networks in China continue to expand at a furious pace, with a strong focus in TD-LTE rollouts to drive Asia-Pacific 4G penetration to increase by more than 2.5 times to 7.9%.
ABI Research forecasts 4G penetration to further rise to 20.8% in 2015, up by more than 150% from the previous year.