ABI Research said that worldwide mobile capital expenditure will exceed $150bn by 2012, with WCDMA receiving the bulk of new investment by mobile operators.
"Mobile operators' attitudes towards capital expenditure have changed over the past two or three years," said ABI mobile wireless research analyst Shailendra Pandey. "They are clearly becoming more focused on an early return on investment."
Pandey believes that greater emphasis on data services is resulting in increased investment in servers and platforms outside the range of traditional wireless equipment.
There is now more focus in developed markets on investments that will improve in-building coverage, and the rollout of advanced data services such as mobile TV and broadband.
ABI said that mobile operators will have to invest in more leased capacity to offer advanced data and content services with improved delivery and reduced network costs.
They will also need to upgrade to microwave technologies, and add fibre links where microwave technologies have been exhausted, in an effort to boost backhaul capacity.
Operators will also have to deploy advanced switching technology in the backhaul network to improve traffic flow and maximise the performance of the backhaul infrastructure.
ABI estimates that China Mobile's 2005 capital expenditure in China was $8.86bn, more than Vodafone's global total of $8.74bn, which ABI describes as "remarkable" considering the high value of capital expenditure per subscriber and per service revenue dollar generated.
Cingular's 2005 capital expenditure in North America was $7.475bn, 116 per cent more than in 2004, owing to the firm's investments in building out its WCDMA network.
"ABI Research expects that investment in technologies supporting HSDPA, mobile TV and mobile broadband services will continue to expand in the coming years," said Pandey.
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