Analysts at ABI Research are expecting the global subscriptions for high-speed data throughput will exceed 641 million in 2021, as the LTE-Advanced Pro deployments gain momentum across the world.

“LTE-Advanced Pro continues to bring substantial enhancements to the wireless network,” said Lian Jye Su, senior analyst at ABI Research. “Gigabit Class LTE, one of the high-speed downlink throughputs of LTE-Advanced Pro, changes the way mobile users interact with their devices. End users can now access cloud-based applications and stream 2K and 4K videos on the go. And operators can also benefit through better network utilisation.”

To reach downlink speeds from 450Mbps and up to 1.2Gbps, high-speed LTE-Advanced Pro capitalises on its technology enhancements like the three-component-carrier aggregation and above, its 4x4 MIMO antenna, as well as forward links of 256 QAM DL and 16 QAM UL. Through its enablement of quick user access, it frees up valuable network resources and optimises spectral efficiency of the mobile network.

With about 120 LTE-Advanced Pro trials or commercial deployments, ABI Research estimates the global total subscribers for LTE-Advanced Pro high-speed downlink to be 16.5 million by the end of 2016. And although current smartphones do not yet support Gigabit LTE speed, Australia’s Telstra launched its Gigabit Class LTE service in January 2017. Other notable deployments include AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile in the U.S., NTT DoCoMo in Japan and SK Telecom in South Korea.

ABI Research expects mass production of devices with Gigabit LTE-capability to occur later this year, as evident through the early flagship Gigabit LTE smartphone announcements from several established OEMs at the Mobile World Congress 2017.

“LTE-Advanced Pro gives mobile network operators a CaPex friendly option to continue upgrading their networks,” concluded Jake Saunders, Vice President at ABI Research. “5G may be still out of the reach for many operators, but through incremental investment, LTE-Advanced Pro guarantees features that will generate new business cases for operators and better user experience for end users, all while preparing operators for 5G deployment down the road.”