Recent research from analysts Informa
show just how important mobile broadband has become. The report suggests that there were 186 million mobile broadband subscribers worldwide, a staggering increase of 84% in just one year, from the 101 million at the end of 2007. The author, Mike Roberts, suggests that this growth will continue unabated through to 2013 when mobile broadband subscribers will make up a third of all mobile subscribers.
So why the massive growth? One reason is pent up demand that has been released by the arrival of flat rate mobile broadband tariffs, new data centric devices and widespread coverage of mobile broadband networks such as HSPA. Says Roberts: "Flat-rate mobile broadband services with widespread coverage and new devices such as USB modems and the iPhone 3G are a runaway success, and have made mobile broadband one of the most significant strategic and commercial opportunities in the converging mobile and broadband markets."
The report says that there are now 400 different commercial mobile broadband networks worldwide. The US, Japan and Korea were the real growth markets for mobile broadband in 2008 and together they made up the majority of mobile broadband subscribers by the end of the year. But this is no isolated phenomenon; Informa predicts that China will be the second largest mobile broadband market in 2013, with India in fourth place.
Although the economic crisis is having only limited impact on uptake of mobile broadband services - which are already much cheaper than legacy mobile data services - Informa says that the migration to next-generation mobile networks such as LTE will be affected.
"There's no doubt that the downturn will delay LTE deployments, with major operators already citing it as a key factor leading them to push LTE launch dates to 2011-12," says Roberts. "Many operators are also realizing that HSPA and HSPA+ upgrades should meet their needs for the next few years, and will cost a lot less than LTE rollouts. The net result is that the LTE subscribers will not start taking off until 2013."
So it certainly looks like mobile broadband has captured the public's imagination and is set to play an important part in the overall broadband mix going forward. I'm definitely a believer.