Embedded 3G mobile broadband device growth to stall

Credit and capacity limits will slow the expected high take-up of embedded devices

A lack of available investment capital and limitations within the capacity of telecoms networks could puncture optimism for the prospects of a key sector in the mobile computing market.

Over the last couple of years, one of the key assumptions regarding mobile computing has been that one day all devices will feature embedded-3G and embedded-WiMAX mobile broadband connections.

However a new report from Disruptive Analysis challenges this theory predicting that the double-whammy of the credit and a capacity crunch will dramatically slow the expected high take take-up .

The research firm suggests that even in three year’s time, laptops with built-in wireless access will only be used by 30% of total, active mobile broadband subscribers globally; by way of contrast, external USB modems will account for 58%.

Key reasons for the slower-than-anticipated growth include the global recession impacting notebook purchases;  unfavourable pricing differentials; the limitations of the sales and support channels for mobile-enabled notebooks; and the typical two-year monthly contract payment model, which does not fit with much of the target market for these devices.

However, the good news for the embedded telecoms players, says Disruptive Analysis, is that in the long term, embedded mobile broadband will likely overtake separate modems, in terms of both shipments and the active user base.

By 2014, forecasts the researcher, there will be 150m users of notebooks and the smaller and increasingly popular netbooks with embedded mobile broadband worldwide. In terms of device shipments, 100m wireless-enabled laptops will likely be sold annually by then. However, not all of these will actually be activated.

Commented the report’s author, Dean Bubley, “Mobile-embedded notebooks are very elegant in concept – but suffer from practical and business-model limitations that will restrict their near-term growth, especially during a period of economic uncertainty when buyers will be especially conservative.”

The report also revealed that only 3m so called Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) will be sold in 2009, although by 2014 this should grow to ten times that figure; by 2012, there will be 45m users of WiMAX mobile broadband computing devices, 11m of these will also use 3G or LTE connections in various hybrid or multimode approaches; the recession and non-availability of credit will drive a softening of demand for laptops generally, as well as a focus on value; for most people, built-in 3G or WiMAX is a “nice to have”, not a “must have”.


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