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In 2013 LTE will become a commercial reality in many more countries, but will have limited economic impact in the next 12 months. Some European countries and emerging markets in Latin America are set to launch LTE, as well as countries in South-East Asia via the Asia–Pacific band plan. Some developed markets such as the United States will also start to test LTE-Advanced and take advantage of features such as carrier aggregation to craft larger channels for higher-speed services.

However, the immediate economic impact of LTE will be limited in countries where it has been priced as a premium product and the economy remains sluggish (for example, Italy and Spain). The industry will also realize that consumers are unwilling to pay a premium for LTE mobile broadband, and that this service will not compete with next-generation fixed access. It will provide a complement to fixed access, both in urban areas as part of bundled service solutions, and in rural areas where fixed access is not available.

 In 2012, operators responded to short message service (SMS) cannibalization by launching rich communication suite-enhanced (RCS-e) services, followed by a number of over-the-top (OTT) services. In the next 12 months, competition will intensify as social media giants such as Facebook enter the market. Analysys Mason forecasts that European operator revenue from messaging will decline by 34 per cent in the next four years, from EUR 28 billion in 2011 to EUR 18.6 billion in 2017.

The first voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) services came to the market in 2012. Though widespread commercial deployments are still some way off, operators will need to make some tough decisions about the future of their voice services. Potential cost savings are currently driving the Internet Protocol multimedia subsystem (IMS) investment case, but revenue implications are uncertain, and a clear vision for how voice services should evolve in an LTE world has yet to be articulated. HTML5/WebRTC will further stimulate the debate about whether “voice is just an application”.

The smartphone market will continue to grow, but the rate at which it grows will be markedly slower than in previous years. The number of smartphone shipments worldwide will grow from 691 million in 2012 to 869 million in 2013. However, the rate of growth in the number of new smartphone connections will significantly decline. Having decreased from 39 per cent in 2011 to 29 per cent in 2012, this growth rate will decline further to 20 per cent in 2013.

There will be continued, incremental development in the market share of the smartphone operating system (OS). In the next 12 months, both Android and iOS are predicted to marginally grow their share of smartphone sales worldwide (from 56.4 per cent to 58.1 per cent, and from 21.5 per cent to 22 per cent, respectively). However, Symbian’s market share for sales is projected to fall from 5.9 per cent to 2.7 per cent.

Traditional television will be under more pressure, OTT/connected television and non-linear television will continue to force broadcasters and pay-TV and telecommunication operators to rethink their strategies. The take-up of paid-for OTT video services in the United States and Canada will more than double to 53.1 million households between 2012 and 2017, representing 37.4 per cent of households.

In Europe, the take-up of paid-for OTT video services reached an estimated 2.3 million households in 2012, representing a mere 0.7 per cent of households and is expected to increase to 32.2 million, or 10 per cent of households, in 2017. Compared with the United States and Canada, growth in Europe will continue to be constrained by a lower propensity to pay for video services, because of the widespread availability of high-quality free content from public broadcasters.

Wi-Fi to the rescue as small-cell/service-provider Wi-Fi solutions will address mobile operators’ needs for dense urban wireless coverage and capacity, but limited backhaul availability, standards maturity and solution costs will blunt major deployments until late 2013 or early 2014. LTE 2600 will emerge as a key option for small-cell spectrum, and will gain network and device support to address the capacity needs of developed-market operators, complemented by growth in 5 GHz Wi-Fi deployments, which will provide improved Wi-Fi performance.

Service-provider Wi-Fi solutions based on HotSpot 2.0 and devices supporting Passpoint 2.0 will come to market in late 2013, helping to bridge the gap between cellular networks and the emerging “carrier grade” Wi-Fi service. Operators will also start to look at providing various grades of service (cellular, service provider Wi-Fi and “best effort” Wi-Fi) to help differentiate their service and brand, as well as support monetization of the wireless experience.

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