European 3G WCDMA subscriptions passed the 100 million mark at the of May, just over five years after the region’s first commercial WCDMA network launch.

According to statistics from parent Informa Telecoms & Media, there were 101.5 million WCDMA subscriptions in Europe out of a total of 910.8 million mobile subscriptions at the end of May.

According to the analyst’s World Cellular Information Service, European WCDMA penetration sits at 11.1 per cent of total mobile subscriptions.

Penetration of WCDMA is generally highest in markets where the technology was launched earliest. Italy became the first market in Europe to offer WCDMA devices when 3 Italia launched services in 2003. The country now accounts for a quarter of Europe’s WCDMA subscriptions and has one of the highest 3G penetration rates, at 28.7 per cent.

Other markets where greenfield operator 3 launched in 2003 also have high 3G penetration rates, notably Austria, Sweden and the UK.

But WCDMA device sales in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have been far lower than in Western Europe, with WCDMA subscriptions totalling just 7.8 million, or 1.9 per cent of the total at the end of May. Slovenia and Georgia are the only markets in CEE where penetration of WCDMA has exceeded 10 per cent of total subscriptions.

But as the cost of WCDMA devices falls worldwide, Informa forecasts that the CEE region will reach 10 per cent WCDMA penetration by early 2011.