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LTE subscriber base to reach 16 million in 2011

There will be 16 million mobile LTE subscribers by the end of 2011, according to a report by ABI Research.

The kind-of-but-not-quite-4G offering is gaining momentum around the world, with 12 countries so far operating commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) services.

T-Mobile rolled out its Call & Surf Via Funk service in Germany, NTT DoCoMo released its Xi service in Japan and even emerging markets like Uzbekistan have LTE offerings, courtesy of TeliaSonera and UCell.

As of March 2011 there are 100 LTE-ready devices on the market, according to Global Mobile Suppliers Association figures. 205 million LTE devices are expected to ship in 2014.

ABI Research said that smartphones are key to the success of LTE, which makes the shift to 4G different than that of 3G. Currently only 13 per cent of LTE-ready devices are smartphones or tablets, but this is expected to change dramatically over the coming years, with handheld devices making up 72 percent of the LTE market by 2014.

ABI Research believes the success of WiMAX on Sprint's network is a good indicator of how successful Verzion Wireless and AT&T will be with LTE over the course of this year.