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ABI Research's Google Earth 4G deployment tracker.
ABI Research has been tracking cities and population coverage for 4G for the past year. At the end of 2009 there were more than 170 802.16e carriers across 65 countries, covering 480 million people. That number is projected to cross the 1 billion mark by 4Q-2012. USB dongles have been an excellent vehicle to prime the market along with CPE and laptops, but mobile handsets will be essential to the success of WiMAX. Yota, Sprint and Clearwire have already started beefing up their lineups with models from HTC and Samsung. Meanwhile, mobile operators are seeking out LTE licenses. Twenty carriers will launch by 4Q-2010. Population coverage lags WiMAX, but will catch up, reaching 600 million people by 4Q-2012. LTE coverage will start in urban hotspots, but carriers indicate they will push coverage rapidly in order to handle the increasing mobile data wave.
The 4G market could well have 150 million subscriptions by 4Q-2014. The split between WiMAX and LTE will depend on WiMAX carrier commitments to upgrade to 802.16m. WiMAX vendors such as Motorola and Huawei are gearing up to offer "802.16e+", which will bring features of 802.16m to the current market. Many companies in the ecosystem are already working on interoperability testing for 802.16m.