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Report: 4G users to hit one billion by 2017

One in eight mobile connections in 2017 will be on 4G networks, according to new research from a mobile operators association.

The GSM Association (GSMA) predicted that the number of global mobile connections would reach eight billion within four years, almost a 5,000 per cent increase from the 176 million connections in 2013.

Chief strategy officer at the GSMA Hyunmi Yang said that by shifting to 4G, mobile operators are likely to see an increase in revenue due to the fact that 4G users consume twice as much data as those on other networks.

"The timely allocation of suitable spectrum to mobile operators, the availability of affordable LTE (Long Term Evolution) devices and the implementation of innovative tariffs that encourage adoption of high-speed data services [have all driven growth]," she said.

"Mobile operators in both developed and developing markets are seeing LTE services contributing to a significant increase in ARPU (average revenue per user)."

The research suggests that Asia is likely to account for 47 per cent of all 4G connections by 2017. Next month, China will see the launch of its first 4G LTE, as global smartphone growth continues to shift from the US to China and developing markets.

"In 'digital pioneer' markets such as the United States, South Korea and Japan, the migration to LTE networks is well advanced and operators are seeing increases in subscriber engagement and ARPU as a result," Yang said.

"We are now seeing other markets make the move to LTE in greater numbers and the double-digit annual growth in global LTE connections forecast between 2013-2017 will see many more consumers around the world engage with high-speed mobile networks."

A report earlier this month by Deloitte anticipated that global revenues from 4G would reach £60 billion by next year. This news came with the warning from John Hayduk, president of product management at Tata Communications, that demand will continue to outpace supply, and that Mobile Service Providers "must have more capabilities to manage their networks when these situations arise - to guard against drops in connectivity and maintain quality".