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Big Shift in Mobile Phone Technology Base

ABI Research forecasts global GSM subscriber growth to slow from a year-on-year rate of over 22 percent in 2006/07 to 14 percent in 2008/09 -- mainly due to the increased migration of subscribers to UMTS 3G technologies.

UMTS (including HSDPA) experienced a nearly 83 percent year-on-year growth rate in 2006/07. ABI Research expects global GSM subscriber numbers to show a negative growth rate starting in 2013, as by then GSM will become less attractive compared to the cheaper 3G services; there will also be losses due to the proliferation of mobile WiMAX and 4G networks.

"Within the GSM subscriber population, EDGE is expected to maintain a high growth rate following increased deployments in emerging markets," says Asia-Pacific vice president Jake Saunders.

"Nonetheless, GSM (including EDGE and GPRS) is still expected to have the highest number of subscribers of all mobile technologies, with a 70 percent global market share in 2013 (dropping from 78 percent in 2007.)"

Meanwhile the W-CDMA (including HSDPA and HSPA) global market share is expected to increase from a little over 5 percent in 2007 to nearly 14 percent in 2013.

The CDMAone and iDEN subscriber bases, on the other hand, have been diminishing quickly in the last five years, and by 2010 most subscribers to these technologies will have migrated to either GSM or CDMA2000 networks. CDMA2000 (including EVDO) has not experienced as high growth rates as UMTS.

"The CDMA2000 growth rate is expected to decline," adds research analyst Hwai Lin Khor, "particularly with the increased talk of CDMA2000 operators adopting LTE in their 4G roadmaps. However, ABI Research expects that CDMA2000 technologies, particularly the 450 MHz implementation, will remain attractive for rural coverage due to their wider network range."

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