Europe has fallen behind many other parts of the world in the deployment of 4G and is the only region with declining mobile revenues, a report by industry regulator GSMA has revealed.
The Mobile Economy Europe report released today argues that Europe is lagging when it comes to the deployment of next-generation mobile technologies and the advanced services they enable.
The report found that 4G accounted for just 0.3 percent of total devices in Europe at the end of 2012, compared to 11 percent in the US and 28 percent in South Korea.
GSMA claims that rising investments in the US are translating into faster data connections, with US speeds now 75 percent faster than the EU average - and the gap is expected to grow.
Despite having the world's highest unique subscriber penetration rate at 79 percent, Europe's overall mobile revenues fell from 162 billion in 2010 to 151 billion in 2012, while the rest of the world saw total revenues grow by four percent. The GSMA estimates that industry revenues will continue to decline in Europe, falling to 146 billion by 2017, indicating a 16 percent drop.
"Europe was long viewed as a pioneer in mobile, but, as this report illustrates, is now lagging behind other regions in the deployment of mobile broadband, particularly in 4G/LTE," said GSMA director general Anne Bouverot.
"Despite this, the mobile industry can play a key role in the European recovery, but this will require policy that encourages investment in mobile broadband connectivity, enables innovation and helps build consumer confidence in mobile services. This should be at the heart of the Commission's planned proposals on a single telecoms market."
The mobile phone industry generated approximately 2.1 percent of GDP for the European Union in 2012 and supported 394,000 jobs in the region, according to the report.
Despite the poor European results, the GSMA believes that the region can regain its position as a global technology leader by investing in mobile technology and driving it into industry sectors such as automotive, healthcare, commerce and education.
"Clearly, the focus needs to be on stimulating investment to achieve long-term economic growth," said Bouverot.
"The move to a Connected Life, where nearly everything and everyone are connected, presents an important opportunity for Europe to regain its leadership position. Collectively, we must create an environment that will attract and nurture investment in mobile."
Up until last week the only mobile operator in the UK to offer 4G was EE. As O2 and Vodafone are now also trying to push the quicker mobile internet service to their own customers, it is likely to remain a hard sell due to the fact that many people are still confused over the benefits that 4G can bring.
The research by broadbandchoices.co.uk found that whilst 81 percent of the 2,500 broadband users surveyed know what 4G is, only eight percent have actually used a 4G network.