Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mobile Data Service Confronts WiFi Hotspot

Sales of mobile data cards, which enable broadband access in portable computers via a service provider's mobile data network, are forecast by Infonetics Research to nearly quadruple between 2007 and 2011, when they will reach $2.9 billion.

According to Infonetics' new market study, these mobile data cards could threaten the WiFi hotspot market as HSDPA and EV-DO-based mobile broadband becomes more available, more affordable, and a higher performance choice.

However, given that a growing number of public Wi-Fi hotspots already offer free internet access, I would suggest that Wi-Fi still has the clear advantage.

"The mobile data services market is becoming more competitive, as mobile operators try to recoup their investments in 3G networks and drive up flattening ARPU (average revenue per user)," said Richard Webb, directing analyst for WiMAX, WiFi and mobile at Infonetics Research.

"Currently, mobile data services are generally too expensive for mass market adoption, but that will change with the increasingly extensive rollout of high speed HSDPA, the launch of new data plans offering increased download limits, and better subsidies for mobile data cards. The iPhone has proven that if the user experience is right, users will take advantage of mobile devices for Internet sessions."

As mobile data plans become more affordable, the report says, consumers will use mobile data cards to enable download of Internet-based content (MP3s, games, video clips) to mobile devices and for transferring user-generated content (photos, video clips, etc.). A small proportion of consumers will use a mobile data plan as their primary means of broadband access.

Other highlights from the Infonetics study include:

- Worldwide mobile subscribers topped 3 billion in 2007.

- Worldwide mobile data subscribers will accelerate dramatically over the next few years, reaching 144 million by 2011.

- Worldwide sales of smartphones reached $36.7 billion in 2007.

- Sales of mobile broadband routers are forecast to nearly quadruple between 2007 and 2011.

- In 2007, Nokia continued its strong lead in the mobile phone market, with 35 percent of worldwide revenue share, followed by Samsung and Motorola.