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Mobile broadband moves into fast lane

Mobile broadband subscribers will overtake fixed broadband users in 2011, according to new research from industry analysts.

In June, there were already more than 200 commercial mobile broadband networks worldwide with more than 50 million subscribers using hundreds of different devices.

But figures from telecoms.com parent, Informa Telecoms & Media, predict that rapid adoption of mobile broadband will lead it to dominant the connectivity market within four years, when services based on HSPA, EV-DO, WiMAX and other systems will have more subscribers than services based on DSL, cable and FTTH.

Overall there will be more than 1 billion broadband subscribers worldwide in 2011, with the majority using mobile rather than fixed systems.

“Mobile broadband is already a significant market but will explode in the next five years as networks, devices and services mature and spark mass market adoption,” said Mike Roberts, principal analyst at Informa and author of the report ‘Future Mobile Broadband: Revenue Opportunities for HSPA to LTE, EV-DO to UMB & WiMAX’.

Informa’s subscriber and device forecasts in the report predict that HSPA will be the leading mobile broadband system in 2012 by number of subscribers, followed by EV-DO and Mobile WiMAX. EV-DO will have the most subscribers at end-2007 but will be overtaken by HSDPA in 2009. TD-SCDMA will also become a significant force in the mobile broadband market with close to 50 million subscribers in China by 2012.

“Mobile WiMAX will be the leading next generation system based on OFDMA and MIMO in 2012 given its two year head start in the market, but LTE will overtake it in the long run due to the huge installed base of WCDMA/HSPA operators that plan to deploy LTE,” Roberts said.

By 2012, mobile broadband will generate more than $400bn in service revenues, representing close to half of total mobile service revenues. But the scale of the opportunity means that vendors and operators with the wrong strategy will feel the pain.

“Mobile broadband is a turning point for the mobile industry – as it was for the fixed line industry when it transitioned from dialup to broadband,” said Roberts. “As in the fixed market, the transition to broadband is an opportunity for new entrants and innovative incumbents to take market share from slower rivals.”

Some mobile broadband vendors and operators are clearly betting that a significant number of fixed broadband subscribers will migrate to mobile broadband – an outlook Roberts believes is accurate. “Fixed-mobile substitution will become a significant trend in the broadband market, just as it has in voice, and fixed-line operators will have to respond,” he said.


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