Telecoms analyst Forrester released research on Wednesday refuting mobile industry predictions that mobile broadband connections could overtake fixed in as little as five years.

But the mobile share of the European broadband market will grow to 27 per cent of all connections by the end of 2013, with fixed representing 67 per cent, down from 88 per cent in 2008. The remaining ten per cent will account for users who have both types of connection, said Forrester.

Cellular carriers are seeing rapid growth in USB modems, said the analyst firm, citing 2007 sales in Finland of over 400,000 (from a population of a little over five million) and 3UK shifting 500,000 units in six months. But there are several drawbacks to the proposition that, by Forrester’s reckoning, will stop it displacing fixed broadband.

Performance is one of them. Even with HSDPA the theoretical maximum speed for these services is 7Mbps, the firm said, with actual performance ordinarily falling some way short of this. Fixed speeds are routinely far higher. And while almost all mobile operators now pitch offers of ‘unlimited’ data consumption, they all attach ‘reasonable usage’ caveats to their services.

“Fixed ISPs take little direct action with consumers who break their “fair use” policies,” said Forrester. “[But] the reverse is true for mobile broadband consumers who exceed their usage cap: Vodafone UK currently charges £15 per GB for usage above the fair-usage threshold.”

Comparatively week indoor coverage and a higher penetration of desktop (stationary) PCs than laptops will act as further drags on the uptake of USB broadband solutions, the firm said.

But the outlook for cellular broadband solutions is by no means grim. Forrester believes that the growing popularity of laptops over desktops will spell good news for cellular carriers and that latecomers to the broadband market – users who don’t yet have broadband of any type – are likely to opt for cellular solutions for reasons of pricing and simplicity.

The mobile broadband consumer base will grow to 40 million by 2013, the firm said.