European WCDMA (3G) subscriptions passed the 100 million mark at the end of May, just over five years after the regions first commercial WCDMA-network launch, according to figures from Informa Telecoms & Medias World Cellular Information Service (WCIS), a live online database tracking the development of the global wireless industry.
Informa's data reveals that at end-May 2008, there were 101.5 million WCDMA subscriptions in Europe out of a total of 910.8 million mobile subscriptions, taking WCDMA penetration to 11.1% of subscriptions. Informas WCDMA-subscription figures refer to WCDMA devices, including HSPA devices, that are actively used for voice or data services, or both.
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 March 2003. The country now accounts for a quarter of Europes WCDMA subscriptions and has one of the highest 3G penetration rates, with 28.7% of subscriptions via WCDMA devices at end-May. Other markets where greenfield operator 3 launched in the first half of 2003 also have high 3G penetration rates, notably Austria, Sweden and the UK.
Informa notes that WCDMA-device sales in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have to date been far lower than in Western Europe. WCDMA subscriptions totalled just 7.8 million, or 1.9% of the total, at end-May 2008, according to Informas data. Slovenia and Georgia are the only markets in CEE where penetration of WCDMA has exceeded 10% of total subscriptions. As the cost of WCDMA devices falls worldwide, Informa forecasts that the CEE region will reach 10% WCDMA penetration by early 2011.
A slight slowdown in the growth in WCDMA handset sales in Western Europe in Q1 2008 was counteracted by an acceleration in sales of WCDMA/HSPA datacards and modems, which boosted the size of the total 3G market, particularly in Sweden and Austria.
It has only been with growing uptake of HSPA devices that data traffic and revenues have begun to take off, says Informa. According to a report published on 12 June by Swedish telecoms regulator PTS, revenues from mobile services in Sweden totalled SEK19.7 billion (1.7 billion) in 2007. Mobile Internet services, by means of USB sticks or USB modems, accounted for more than SEK1 billion of these revenues.
For a chart showing WCDMA subscriptions as a percentage of the total across the top 10 European markets, comparing Dec 07 with May 08, click here.
For more information about WCIS, click here.