Worldwide mobile operator capital infrastructure expenditure in 2013 will experience opposing forces from different regional markets. “In North America, mobile carrier CapEx will grow 2.1 percent to US$13.4 billion as the accelerated LTE equipment spend programs from AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, etc. concentrate spending in 2013,” said Jake Saunders, VP and practice director of core forecasting at ABI Research. “On the other hand, in Western Europe, capital expenditure will contract -1.1 percent, as maturing networks, and economic uncertainty, trim CapEx.”

Asia-Pacific has its LTE hotspots. Korea and Japan are rapidly acquiring LTE subscribers; China has yet to award LTE licenses, while SE Asia countries are starting to demonstrate some traction in LTE. India had awarded some LTE-TDD licenses in early 2012 but a lack of affordable LTE-TDD capable handsets, and high tariffs, has kept Indian LTE-TDD subscriber adoptions in check.

“Eastern Europe should show reasonable growth (2.4 percent) in CapEx that reflects LTE coverage build-out by carriers, but also 3G capacity build-outs as 3G subscriber adoption has gone past 41% penetration for the region,” commented Aditya Kaul, mobile infrastructure practice director. Middle East, Africa, and Latin America will show some growth in capital expenditure of around 1 percent to 3 percent. Voice-centric coverage is largely complete in those regions. Some operators are addressing 3G in-fill and mobile data capacity challenges but there has not been the ‘data crunch’ as we have seen in Developed Markets.

As a result of these countervailing fiscal commitments, worldwide capital expenditure is expected to contract by -7 percent to US$ 98.6 billion in 2013. However, the commitments to LTE from an ever-expanding list of countries should substantially boost overall mobile carrier CapEx, by 6 percent, to US$104.5 billion in 2014.

ABI Research’s study, “Mobile Operator CAPEX” Market Data focuses on the regional and global mobile operator capital expenditure which includes base station and core network spend. It is part of ABI Research’s Mobile Capex Database.