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Mixed Outlook for the U.S. Mobile Broadband Market

The market for mobile broadband connectivity for portable devices has previously been slow to gain momentum in North America. Only in the past 18 months has the U.S. market participants taken significant steps toward fostering broader adoption -- beyond the early-adopter mobile business user.

According to a new International Data Corporation (IDC) forecast, the U.S. mobile broadband market will potentially grow from 6.5 million subscribers in 2009 to 30.2 million in 2014 -- which accounts for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36.1 percent over the forecast period.

The introduction of subsidized netbook and tablet PCs, changes to pricing structures, and the early availability of 4G with WiMAX will begin to spur interest among the consumer segment about the power of mobile broadband as a secondary access method beyond wired broadband.

IDC believes that although the possibility of mobile broadband becoming a primary access technology remains somewhat a figment of our imagination, it's not beyond the realm of possibility in the longer term.

"Mobile broadband is growing in importance for both consumers adopting the service and the operators offering connectivity," says Carrie MacGillivray, program manager, Mobility Services at IDC.

Diversity in pricing plans, new computing devices capable of mobile broadband connections, and the promise of a 4G world with faster speeds are a tempting proposition for customers looking to be ubiquitously connected regardless of location, anytime.

The evolving landscape of new wireless connected devices -- such as Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle -- will also have a positive impact on this market. As devices such as tablets, which are rich in digital media experiences, become more broadly available and consumed, the appetite for instantaneous connectivity will drive growth around mobile broadband.

It was hoped that that 2010 would be the year where growing interest and adoption of these services gained new momentum. However, the recent wireless broadband monthly service bandwidth cap trend unfortunately will create market uncertainty -- as some subscribers hesitate to use their smartphones to access the Internet.

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