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3G Influencer Seeding & Market Development

I'm a willing advocate for the products and services that are essential to my digital lifestyle. I write about my positive experiences, and I also share my enthusiasm with friends and business associates. You may assume that the leading product and service providers go out of their way to have me use and apply their latest new gadget or service offering.

In fact, few companies contact me with offers to trial their new products or services, I'm guessing it's because they just don't understand the value of influencer seeding -- getting their latest creation into the hands of people like me. In contrast, every day my email in-box fills with mundane press releases that rarely answer my fundamental question -- so what's the key application benefit? The U.S. wireless service providers are still the most clueless marketers, in this regard.

According to the new Strategy Analytics research report, 'Liberating the Laptop: 5-Year Market Outlook on PC Cards & Embedded Wireless WAN Connectivity,' the market for cellular PC cards and embedded 3G modems for notebook PCs is set to post spectacular 60 percent growth in 2007.

The study finds that with Wi-Fi WLAN's limitations coming clearly into focus, and truly cost-effective mobile WiMAX still several years out, global 3G/3.5G shipments are set to grow handsomely over the next few years, with annual shipments hitting 15 million units by 2009.

IMHO, there is a major unfounded assumption in this forecast. That being -- wireless network providers will actively market the inherent value of these new capabilities to their target audience. Frankly, history simply doesn't support this assumption. Market development will likely suffer a long and slow progression as a result. Very early-adopter techies will be the only users, for the longest time. Mainstream user adoption is, as a matter of fact, totally unpredictable.

This research study concludes that 2007 will be the high-water mark for 3G/3.5G pre-OFDM growth as notebook OEMs begin to ramp up WiMAX in 2008 and 2009 with the help of WiMAX-ready Intel chipsets and baked-in WiMAX support in upcoming Vista Service Packs from Microsoft.

Yet, even in the rosiest WiMAX scenario, Strategy Analytics analysts are confident that 3G's long term role as part of a multi-radio, least cost routing future is secure as the default subordinate platform to service remote areas outside of cheaper WiMAX or Wi-Fi WLAN coverage. Potentially, this bodes well for 3G in notebooks overall and opens the doors to embedded 3G radio modems as standard equipment over time. At least, in concept.

"In the early 3G card market, tech-savvy business users with sufficient need and ability to pay are finding complete freedom from location and the gratification of instant-connections to be addictive." said Cliff Raskind, Director of the Wireless Enterprise Strategies service. "Fast forward a decade and users will come to expect options for boundless connectivity. The notion of having to 'go somewhere' to connect will be as inconvenient as it is for a voice call today. By necessity, to move the market forward, WLAN, 3G and 4G will be unknown to the user and these technologies will work in concert to provide transparent connectivity."

David Kerr, VP of the Global Wireless Practice commented on the relative position of leading players in this arena, "Option Wireless remains a major force in the market, though Sierra has succeeded in turning the ship around in the last 12 months with an impressive (albeit late) portfolio of 3G/3.5G products. Novatel has a solid solution-centric strategy and long term convergence play to avoid commoditization, while Asian vendors, such as Pantech & Curitel, Huawei and ZTE, have shown they will be forces to be reckoned with."

So, will 3G-enabled wireless service providers continue to use their traditional 'Franklin Mint collectors item' technique to market these elusive new offerings, or will they learn to evolve their approach? Of course, when all else fails, at least we can count on T-Mobile to offer the lowest price. I can't wait for that press release, from a PR person who never used the service (Yes, I know, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit).

In the mean time, I'll gladly continue to seek the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot when I'm out and about.

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