LTE smartphone shipments to triple in 2013, resulting in lower prices

The U.S., U.K., Japan, China and South Korea will drive the growth

Global LTE smartphone shipments will triple next year, allowing the technology to take off on a grander scale and driving down device prices.

LTE smartphone shipments will grow from 90.9 million units in 2012 to 275 million in 2013, according to market research company Strategy Analytics.

For users, this growth will result in not only a greater choice of products, but also lower prices.

As volumes and scale rise, the price of LTE smartphones will inevitably fall. By the end of 2013, there will be numerous mid-range models available for under US$200 wholesale, according to Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics.

However, LTE won't start to spread to the low-priced devices until 2014 or 2015, he said.

The growing popularity of LTE smartphones will eventually also help attract new vendors, including Amazon and Mozilla, Strategy Analytics believes.

But they will not find it easy to break into the fiercely competitive market, and would need to come out with smartphones that are strongly differentiated in areas such as design, price or services, it said.

Strategy Analytics isn't alone in thinking that Amazon will enter the smartphone market next year. The retailer will partner with HTC to develop a range of smartphones by the end of 2013, market research company CCS Insight wrote in a recent report.

CCS predicted that Amazon will realize that developing handsets on its own isn't viable, and will choose HTC as a partner and acquire a stake in the struggling company to secure a long-term commitment.

Next year will see Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) services become more common, as well.

Major countries driving LTE growth next year will include the U.S., U.K., Japan, China and South Korea, according to Strategy Analytics.

The number of commercial LTE networks will continue to grow next year, with 209 networks expected to be up and running by the end of next year compared to an estimated 166 in 2012, according to industry organization the Global mobile Suppliers Association.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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