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Mobile broadband subs to hit 1bn in 2012

Speed of mobile broadband growth presents challenges as well as opportunities for operators

Mobile broadband subs to hit 1bn in 2012
Smartphones such as Apple's iPhone are driving demand for mobile broadband, but operators may struggle to profit from this growth.

While the global mobile broadband market is forecast to reach 1 billion connections in 2012, operators are likely to face significant challenges in devising strategies to profit from this growth, according to a report from Pyramid Research.

The huge anticipated growth of mobile broadband in the next few years could make it difficult for operators to develop accurate forecasts for their mobile broadband market share and subscriptions by network technology, device type, traffic profile and revenue potential.

Although the majority of the 1 billion connections will be mobile datacards, mobile broadband smartphones are the current focus of operator marketing and business plans.

In the past month, US operator Sprint added 300,000 mobile broadband subscribers with its new HTC EVO 4G, but the advantage of being first with a commercial 4G network and smartphone is now being constrained by device shortages.

A shortage of devices is not the only challenge that may hinder mobile broadband growth. The report added that some operators, including AT&T, remain concerned that the bandwidth consumption of their highest usage-subscribers may strain network capacity. AT&T has already started to introduce rate plans with usage caps designed to both limit abuse and open the mobile broadband market to a larger mass market of lower-volume users.

Smartphone vendors and internet powerhouses such as Apple and Google are currently better positioned than mobile operators to profit from mobile internet, and the move to 4G will create another refresh cycle for devices and "supercharge mobile broadband traffic growth", according to Pyramid Research.

"Mobile operators planning 4G networks need a new transaction-based business case that allows them to more fully monetise the broadband traffic generated by mobile
Internet services, content and applications," the report added.

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