Global capital expenditure weakened in 4Q2011 for many mobile operators as they trimmed their budgets for the remainder of 2011. However confidence is returning in the first half of 2012 as operators start to switch over from LTE trial to commercial service in a number of markets. “Mobile capital expenditure is forecasted to grow 9% to US$111.1 billion in 2012, supported by renewed investment in radio access network (RAN) infrastructure and in-building wireless access,” says Jake Saunders, vice president of forecasting. Operators have been reviewing their macro RAN architectures and are opting to beef up their rooftop and street-level small cells as well as distributed base station antenna deployments to better handle the data traffic.
A large proportion of the increased capital expenditure year-on-year comes from the Asia-Pacific region. China Mobile, for example is still spending 57% of in annual CAPEX on radio network infrastructure, followed by 18% on its transmission and backbone network. China Mobile has deployed 900 TD-LTE base-stations in six cities as part of the trial but plans to have 200,000 BTS by 2013.
The North American market is the next buoyant market for CAPEX, although overall CAPEX will soften 1.3% over the year. AT&T has been adding capacity to its network and expanding backhaul. Sprint allocates 86% of its CAPEX to investment in in data capacity increases and overhauling its legacy network of base stations for multi-mode equipment. Verizon is also proving to be no slouch with investments in its fiber-optic network, 4G LTE coverage, global IP and cloud-based services. “European CAPEX has been on the back foot relative to North America and Asia-Pacific due to weak macroeconomic factors and regulatory issues, however by 2013 we expect to start to seeing some of the European CAPEX come back as LTE upgrades roll on Europe wide,” states Aditya Kaul, practice director, mobile networks.
ABI Research’s studies, “Mobile Operator CAPEX Market Data, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America, North America, Middle East and Africa, and Western Europe" provide CAPEX values on a quarter-by-quarter basis for 100 different carrier operating companies, as well as forecasts, across all major global regions.
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