In 2016, ABI Research forecasts that there will be 103 million 4G wholesale subscribers – subscribers managed through a MVNO that buys wholesale access from a mobile operator – for mobile operators, an increase from just 3.8 million in 2010.
“The 4G wholesale market will be one of the main catalysts in the mobile wireless market in the future,” says Philip Solis, research director, mobile networks. “These forecasts are conservative, we believe, with mobile consumer electronics vendors’ adoption of this model being one factor that could greatly impact the potential of this market.”
The 4G wholesale market owes its growth to a number of contributing factors. The market makes it easier for MVNOs to offer different and more flexible subscription plans. On the technology side, the performance characteristics of 4G in terms of speed and latency and the lower cost per MB to deliver data over 4G networks make 4G technologies more viable than previous technologies. The desire to share the high costs of building a 4G network is also driving this market.
While the 4G wholesale market currently revolves entirely around WiMAX because of Clearwire and UQ Communications, ABI Research believes that the market will shift rapidly to LTE in the next few years. Aero2, Callmax, LightSquared, MVS, and Yota (Scartel) are other 4G wholesale operators that will have an impact with LTE, and many more are expected to sprout up.
While the market is forecasted to experience impressive growth globally, roughly one third of the anticipated 103 million 4G subscribers in 2016 will be from China and Japan. The United States and Russia will also be influential countries contributing to 4G wholesale market growth.