Slow Start, then Boom for 3.5G Mobile Broadband

David Murphy

The number of 3.5G mobile broadband subscribers worldwide will boom more than ten-fold, from 2.5 million in 2006 to more than 300 million in 2011, but market growth in the immediate short term will be restrained by a lack of compelling devices, according to a Strategic Report just published by Informa Telecoms & Media, Future Mobile Broadband: HSPA, EV-DO, WiMAX & LTE.
The Report identifies strengths and weaknesses in the emerging mobile broadband ecosystem, with comprehensive analysis of key value chain segments including technologies, standards, systems, equipment, chipsets, components, devices, applications and services. 
The report notes that the lack of a wide range of compelling handsets will slow mass-market take-up of 3.5G mobile broadband services in 2006-07, but that handsets will start to mature in 2008, leading to a sharp increase in 3.5G handset sales and subscribers in 2008-09. By 2011, Informa says, 85% of 3.5G devices sold will be handsets, and the remaining 15% will be notebooks and PC cards.
The report defines 3.5G mobile broadband subscribers as those using services based on HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access), HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access)  EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimised) Revision A or EV-DO Revision B.
"A lack of compelling devices and content led to delayed launches and slow take-up of WCDMA and EV-DO services, and early HSDPA and EV-DO Revision A services are expected to suffer from the very same problems," says Malik Saadi, Principal Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, and co-author of the report.
Saadi notes that most HSDPA services are launching with only PC cards and notebooks, although a number of early handsets are also arriving.
"It is striking that, as of June, no major vendor has unveiled plans for EV-DO Rev. A handsets, although data cards are on the way" says Saadi.
Mobile WiMAX will compete with HSPA and EV-DO Rev A/B in the mobile broadband market, the report says, but will suffer even more than those technologies from the slow arrival of compelling notebooks and handsets.
"Mobile WiMAX will play a relatively minor role in the mobile broadband market through 2011, largely because Mobile WiMAX notebooks and tablets will not arrive in volume until 2008-09, and compelling Mobile WiMAX handsets won't arrive until 2010," says Mike Roberts, Principal Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media and co-author of the Future Mobile Broadband report. "By comparison, HSDPA notebooks and handsets are already shipping, which means that the HSDPA device market is one to two years ahead of the Mobile WiMAX device market."
Roberts adds, however, that WiMAX will gain significant momentum in the fixed, nomadic and portable broadband segments in 2006-11, even though many WiMAX subscribers will be using fixed indoor modems rather than mobile devices.
The report costs 2,495 for a paper copy, 3,743 for a single-user PDF, or 4,900 for a single-user PDF and paper copy. For more information or to order the report, click here.
To see a graph showing 3.5G Mobile Broadband devices by type, click here.