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Making the Mobile Broadband Decade: How to Climb up the Hockey Stick

by Philip Kendall | Jan 14, 2010


It is less than a month into the new decade, and I find myself wondering what daily life will be like when we reach the end of the decade. As mobile industry analysts, we often set our sites on key trends for the upcoming year and projections for how much growth will occur in the next 5 years. Sometimes, however, we have requests from clients to look 10 years out – what will 2020 look like?

I would like to dub this the Mobile Broadband Decade—or maybe just the Broadband Decade. Not just broadband anywhere, but everywhere, with highspeed mobile connectivity pervasive in our lives to an extent we cannot truly fathom until we get there. How many of us have cut the cord and cannot imagine life where you had to go indoors or search for quarters to make a call or check your messages? How many of today’s youngsters will not be able to fathom life without connectivity, video, and pervasive and intuitive context and presence-aware social networking integrated throughout their daily activity at home, school, and work?

  • Year 2009: We end the decade with a spurt of growth on mobile broadband, with the iPhone showing that we will use (and pay for) compelling, easy to use devices and services that we can take with us (and like so much we use them a lot at home). Netbooks and e-readers also enter the scene.


  • Year 2020: Mobile connectivity is so pervasive we often don’t even think about it being there. Devices and services are truly converged across many networks, so the home/away-from-home realms offer seamless experience. Pipes are broad and intelligent. M2M has found many new uses. We intuitively weave video into communications, interact with machines, and our devices and services know our habits and preferences and make endless wading through information and options a thing of the past. Mobile connectivity makes our lives more fulfilling, more relaxing yet productive—and even can extend our lives through safer vehicles and mhealth.

As director of the new Strategy Analytics Mobile Broadband Opportunities (MBO) service, I have the exciting task of setting our research agenda for evaluating the rapidly evolving ecosystem, identifying opportunities, and testing the waters on consumer sentiment and willingness to pay for all these new devices and services that will shape the beginning of this decade—as well as forecasting how big the mobile broadband market will be and guiding our clients in how best to build the market and take share.

In our recent report, “Global Active Mobile Broadband Subscribers Forecast: 2008 – 2014,” Strategy Analytics forecast 1 billion new subscriptions actively using mobile broadband would be added over the next five years across a range of device categories: handsets, computing devices, and other consumer electronics devices.


Source: Strategy Analytics

Most interesting is not growth areas—quite frankly we expect growth across a wide arrange of devices, technologies, and regions—but what to do to best create a fertile environment for the innovation and investment that will stimulate that growth and have the ability to blow our forecasts out of the water.

Strategy Analytics has identified four critical factors for mobile broadband growth:

  • User experience and compelling use cases—the iPhone and Amazon Kindle have proven that user experience, easy of use, and a good use case can spur demand and usage levels not previously anticipated
  • Attractive service packaging and pricing of devices and services, aimed not only at early adopters and protecting existing lines of business, but also for a wide range of new user groups
  • Win-Win Partnerships to bring new device types and services to market – the Strategy Analytics Wireless Media Strategies (WMS) and Wireless Enterprise Strategies (WES) services provide further detail into evolving partnerships and ecosystems
  • Network deployments to support both coverage and capacity and deliver quality of experience - the assumptions behind the growth in mobile broadband depend on increasing spectrum awards and 3G, LTE, Mobile WiMAX network deployments in additional markets and by more operators; broadband stimulus packages that support mobile deployments will also help to increase availability of 3G/4G networks

Decisions and creativity today on pricing, business models, partnerships, and user experience will set the stage for the growth trajectory that materializes. At this stage of the market it is challenging to pinpoint exactly when inflection points in growth will occur, but it is important to recognize the key factors that will create those inflection points and foster an environment ripe for innovation and investments that will spur market developments and lead to more customer adoption of mobile broadband across a wide array of devices.

The challenge I would like to put in front of all our clients (and those who we would love to have as new clients) is: do the most you can today to build a foundation for the hockey stick of growth we project is ahead – and create the truly “Mobile Broadband Decade.”

-Susan Welsh de Grimaldo

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