According to IDC’s Asia/Pacific Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, shipments of 4G-capable smartphones are expected to grow by more than 400% this year in Malaysia.
Earlier this year, Maxis became the first operator in Malaysia to launch LTE (4G) services, which it claims is capable of providing up to 5 to 10 times faster download speeds than its 3G data services, while other operators such as Celcom, DiGi, U Mobile & P1 have announced their intentions to rollout LTE plans in 2013.
IDC expects competition in the 4G space to intensify and demand for LTE-enabled smartphones to significantly increase towards the second half of 2013, when LTE networks from all three major mobile operators are expected to be up and running.
Ryan Lai, Associate Market Analyst for Mobile Phone and Tablet research at IDC Asia/Pacific says, “Rapid deployment of LTE networks in other markets meant that vendors such as Nokia and Apple chose to include 4G connectivity as a standard feature for their flagship handsets. This resulted in Malaysian consumers having access to LTE-enabled handsets – which represented 5% of total smartphone shipments in 2012 – even though LTE data services were unavailable.”
FIGURE: Malaysia Smartphone Air Interface Share, 2011-2013
[Source: IDC Asia/Pacific Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, March 2013]
With Celcom and DiGi expected to launch 4G data services later this year and LTE connectivity increasingly becoming a hygiene factor among premium smartphones, IDC forecasts that shipments of LTE-enabled handsets will account for 21% of total smartphone volume.
Ryan comments that “In recent months, BlackBerry, HTC and Sony have unveiled flagship handsets that come standard with LTE, while a LTE variant of Samsung’s Galaxy S IV is set to hit Malaysian shores sometime this year, suggesting a significant surge in LTE-enabled handsets for 2013.”
The research company says that the adoption of LTE services on mobile phones has been negligible since its launch. One of its main challenges is Malaysia’s 2,600 Mhz LTE spectrum which is not compatible with Apple’s iPhone 5. “Among the 4G-enabled handsets shipped to Malaysia in 2012, more than 80% were iPhone 5s. Maxis did not charge a premium for 4G services over 3G so if the iPhone 5 were to be compatible with Malaysia’s LTE spectrum, 4G adoption would be significantly higher,” adds Ryan.
MalaysianWireless previously reported that Maxis would start rolling out 4G LTE for iPhone 5 possibly starting this month.
Ryan continues by saying that “LTE in Malaysia is in its infancy. At the beginning of the year, device selection was limited, coverage areas were sparse and Maxis wasn’t aggressively marketing the service. Come the second half of 2013, things are expected to pick up as more operators and devices will enter the picture and a LTE marketing blitzkrieg is expected as operators look to recuperate capital expenditure spent in building their 4G networks.”