Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mobile broadband out-connects Wi-Fi

Almost half of U.K. users accessing the Internet away from home or work prefer mobile broadband networks, according to a survey by Point Topic. Last year Wi-Fi hotspots held the lead.

Forty-seven percent of surveyed users now choose mobile networks to access the Internet, compared to 42 percent who still use Wi-Fi hotspots. A year earlier the ratio was 40 percent to 30 percent in favor of Wi-Fi, according to Point Topic.

The combination of heavy marketing and lower costs has worked in favour of mobile broadband, according to Oliver Johnson, CEO at Point Topic.

He sees the operator price war continuing, with lower monthly rates, and a growing market share for mobile networks as a result. "In 12 to 24 months I think we'll see a 60:40 split," said Johnson.

There is more good news for mobile operators. Only about 10 percent of surveyed users plan to switch operator in the next six months, although that may in part be explained by long contracts that often are required for subscribers.

But the low churn is not true for everyone. Vodafone and Orange have greater customer turnover than competitors.

The survey also shows that 26 percent of the mobile network users are with O2. Orange and Vodafone each take about 20 percent of the market. They are followed by T-Mobile and 3 Mobile, at 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

If Wi-Fi operators want to see their share grow they have to work on building better and more well-known brands, according to Johnson. More consolidation would also be good for the market, he said.

But in the end accessing the Internet via mobile networks or Wi-Fi hotspots might be a moot point, as the two technologies finally converge, with mobile broadband users defaulting to Wi-Fi where it's available. "Operators just want users to stay on their network," said Johnson.

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200 Million Ultra-Mobile Devices to ship in 2013

From just 10 million units in 2008, shipments of ultra-mobile devices (UMDs - the umbrella term for ultra-mobile PCs, netbooks and Mobile Internet Devices) are expected to exceed an incredible 200 million in 2013.

According to ABI Research principal analyst Philip Solis, "The UMD market will still be small compared to the wireless handset market, but with a forecast revenue of nearly USD27 billion in 2013, it will certainly be significant."

While netbooks account for about 90% of today's UMD market, they will fall to a distant second place by 2013, while MID (Mobile Internet Device) shipments surge ahead to take nearly 68% of the market, with Ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs) remaining a niche category.

To put the UMD market forecasts into perspective, the 2013 estimate of 200 million shipped devices is roughly the anticipated size of the worldwide laptop PC market.

"As this market enters its rapid growth phase and starts to evolve,” Solis continues, “we will see considerable experimentation with different distribution channels: some will sell direct from the manufacturer, some via retail outlets, and some through mobile operators who will subsidize them to encourage new data plan subscriptions."

You can access the full report here.

Click here to view the latest laptop-inclusive mobile broadband plans.

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Virgin Mobile to launch mobile broadband in Q4

Managing director of Virgin Mobile, Graeme Oxby, told Mobile News a renewed agreement with Virgin Mobile's MVNO host network, T-Mobile, will allow it to produce its own mobile broadband proposition.

Oxby said the MVNO, which in July reached half a million contract customers, would push the new offering as part of a "complete suite" of services, alongside Virgin Media's existing fixed-line offerings.

He said: "It's been quite difficult to do much about mobile broadband; the new agreement changes that. It's a large part of our strategy for next year; joining mobile broadband to fixed broadband to complete our suite of services. There will be quite a lot of development now the fundamentals are in place.

"We said we would do something around this in Q4, but we have no specific details yet. It's exciting because it glues together all our offerings quite nicely."

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