Rising tide of LTE investment floating many boats: LTE vendor analysis

Who is winning the biggest share of LTE business in mobile networks today? The Mobile Network rounds up recent analysts' vendor analysis.

Reuters last week reported Huawei’s claim to be on target to make $2 billion from LTE contracts in 2013, having made half a billion from LTE in Q1. Its most recent win saw it chalk up a major ($727 million over six years) contract with TDC in Denmark. The vendor is also expecting to benefit from contracts in China, having been named as one of nine suppliers to China Mobile for its TD-LTE network.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, InformaTM placed Huawei and Ericsson at the top of the LTE market, saying that the companies share between them 74% of the total market.

A statement from InformaTM said:
“According to Informa’s calculations and data provided and validated by vendors, Huawei has accounted for 40% of network contract awards, and Ericsson has accounted for 34%. NSN follows, with 17%, and ALU, ZTE, Samsung and NEC have attracted a total of 9% of allocated contracts between them.”

Elias Avarantinos of Exelixisnet, which has just produced its own report on LTE investments told TMN:

“Ericsson will experience a slight decline under intense competition from Huawei pressure that will try to scoop all new LTE deployments with its main target to acquire larger deals.

“However it is estimated that Ericsson will maintain its leading position in 2014 due to the large Tier 1 operators contracts, followed most likely by Huawei instead of NSN.”

Avarantinos also pointed to China as a key battleground.

“Huawei and Alcatel-Lucent are the big winners of China Mobile’s contract. Overall, Huawei, Alcatel Lucent, Samsung and ZTE are expected to be the protagonists, gaining market share and momentum by the end of 2013. That pace is expected to continue in 2014, with main driver China Mobile. NSN’s strong territories, North America, Japan and Korea might stand weak if no new deployments arise and Huawei could surpass, climbing up to the 2nd position. Samsung and ZTE will continue to be the outsiders in 2014, depending mainly on a large number of developing market contracts that are much smaller scale compared to the top three LTE vendors.”

Huawei itself claimed to have won 196 commercial LTE network contracts and deployed 93 commercial LTE networks worldwide, of the total 200 commercial networks in operation globally (GSA Evolution to LTE Report, August 2013).

Not that third placed NSN is done with fighting its corner when it comes to the numbers game. The vendor, fresh from launching SFR’s LTE network just this past weekend, claimed that it now has 92 LTE references of its own.

Alcatel-Lucent, counted as an also ran by many of the analysts, still claims to have five of the top ten global vendors as LTE customers, and a total of 35 commercial contracts. Despite not doing so well in France as it would have hoped, it was recently boosted by Telefonica’s 8,000 base station contract in Spain. It was also one of only two vendors reckoned by ABIResearch to have reported a sequential growth in RAN equipment revenues in 2013. The other vendor to have done so was Huawei.

A rising tide may float all boats, however, even if some boats are larger than others. Infrastructure spending on LTE will nearly triple to $24.3 billion in 2013 from $8.7 billion in 2012, according to research firm IHS iSuppli. IHS iSuppli estimated that Chinese LTE spending would peak in 2014, with operators splashing $6.3 billion on LTE equipment – nearly double their 2013 investment.

Infonetics released a report last week that claimed that vendors recorded $3.3 billion in revenues from LTE in Q2 2013, up 17% on Q1 2013 and up 119% year on year.

This round of LTE investment might even make 2013 the peak year for macrocell infrastructure spending, Infonetics calculated.