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Increased mobile broadband penetration will drive 3G traffic

Photograph of Mark HeathThe increasing penetration of USB modems and datacards to support mobile broadband services will continue to have a significant impact on 3G traffic volumes. USB modems permit easy connection of 3G data services to either portable or fixed PCs. PC applications generally consume substantially more data than basic mobile phones, with usage of several gigabytes per month per device possible.

In Europe, USB modems are now widely offered for a low price – or for free – to customers signing up to 18 or 24 month mobile broadband contracts.

3G operators that have offered affordable pricing are reporting rapid take-up of mobile broadband services. For example, of new-entrant 3’s 20.7 million 3G cellular customers globally at the end of March 2009, 2.5 million (12%) were mobile broadband access customers – a 305% increase from the previous year.

Penetration of 3G mobile broadband services will continue to increase strongly, driven by affordable pricing and widespread availability of USB modems and datacards.

According to the Commission of the European Communities, there has been significant take-up of mobile broadband services in some European countries. The figure below shows the mobile broadband penetration (for “dedicated data service cards, modems and keys”) for a number of European countries in January 2009 from its report. Austria, Finland and Portugal had the highest mobile broadband penetration of European countries (11.4%, 9.1% and 8.3%, respectively). Despite the significant take-up of mobile broadband services in some European countries, mobile broadband penetration was significantly lower than 10% in most countries in January 2009.

Chart of mobile broadband penetration as a proportion of total population in selected European countries

Mobile broadband penetration for selected European countries, Jan 2009

With fixed broadband penetration below 35% in most countries by January 2009, as shown in the figure below, there is significant potential for mobile broadband services.

Chart of fixed broadband penetration as a proportion of total population in selected European countries

Fixed broadband penetration for selected European countries, Jan 2009

Dr Mark Heath co-founded Unwired Insight in 2001, to provide analysis and market intelligence for the mobile telecommunications industry. Previously he contributed to the standardisation of GSM, UMTS and DECT and held senior roles for a mobile network operator and equipment manufacturer. Mark has written over 40 industry reports and has advised investors, network operators, equipment vendors, lawyers and government bodies.

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