Mobile broadband users near quarter billion mark

Mobile broadband subscribers worldwide topped the 225 million mark at the end of March 2009, representing 93 per cent year on year growth.

According to statistics released by Informa Telecoms & Media on Wednesday, the popularity of mobile broadband remains at its highest in Asia Pacific, which boasted over 90 million subscribers, while growth is most notable in Latin America with 385 per cent year on year growth to over 10 million subscribers.

Typically in many emerging markets, fixed broadband access remains limited and mobile operators are seeing the opportunity to use recently deployed wireless networks as a way of diversifying their revenue streams by connecting millions for whom an internet connection has until recently been out of reach. The Informa statistics incorporate all forms of mobile broadband technology, from 3G HSPA to WiMAX.

Informa’s principal analyst for growth markets, Nick Jotischky, said the evolution of the device market has also contributed to a surge in mobile data traffic. The analyst estimates that the increased usage in non-voice services has resulted in mobile operators recording total data revenues of $46.5bn during 1Q09, which is an 8.5 per cent year on year increase on the corresponding period in 2008. The value of the non-voice market for the whole of 2008 was estimated to be over $180bn, accounting for over 20 per cent of total service revenues.

The iPhone also helped, with O2 reporting that 40 per cent of its data traffic in the UK comes from the smartphone market.

“Mobile operators cannot afford to overlook the effects of the economic downturn on consumer spending and especially the discretionary spend of data services. Moreover, intense competition and the introduction of bundled offers in order to limit churn has resulted in decreasing SMS revenues for many operators despite an actual rise in traffic. Whilst all data services, be they messaging, entertainment, internet or mobile banking services are becoming more central to mobile operator strategies, they are often more successful as retention tools and differentiators than actual revenue generators,” said Jotischky.

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