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Are You Ready for 3.5G Mobile Broadband?

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 2006-07 will be restrained by a lack of compelling devices, according to Informa Telecoms & Media.

"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. "However 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."

A lack of a wide range of compelling handsets will slow mass-market takeup of 3.5G mobile broadband services in 2006-07, but handsets will start to mature in 2008, leading to a sharp increase in 3.5G handset sales and subscribers in 2008-09. By 2011 85 percent of 3.5G devices sold will be handsets, and the remaining 15 percent will be notebooks and PC cards. 3.5G mobile broadband subscribers are defined as subscribers using services based on HSDPA, HSUPA, EV-DO Revision A or EV-DO Revision B.

Mobile WiMAX will compete with HSPA and EV-DO Rev A/B in the mobile broadband market, 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 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 says.

However that should not obscure the fact that WiMAX will gain significant momentum in the fixed, nomadic and portable broadband segments in 2006-11, although many WiMAX subscribers will be using fixed indoor modems rather than mobile devices, Roberts adds.

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