Subsidized Mobile Internet Devices a Not-so-Nuts Proposition for Carriers?

[qi:101] Subsidies for high-end smartphones can be a Faustian bargain for mobile operators, but there are riches in the coming wave of connected devices, according to figures released today from In-Stat. More than 60 percent of all netbooks and other Internet-enabled mobile devices will be sold through operators and their partners by 2013 as more services are bundled for multiple gadgets, the market research firm predicts.

Those devices are increasingly likely to be sold with 3G and 4G data contracts, In-Stat said, resulting in recurring monthly revenues for carriers. The percentage of netbooks and smartbooks sold with a mobile contract will increase to 49.5 percent in 2013 from 31.5 percent this year. And while subsidies for superphones like the iPhone can exceed $300, the business model for subsidized mobile Internet devices can be a very attractive one for carriers, according to In-Stat analyst Jim McGregor:

“In the U.S., carriers are charging up to $60 per month for a two-year contract with the subsidized purchase of a netbook,” McGregor said in a statement. “While the subsidy costs the carrier $50–$100, it generates $1,440 or more in service fees over the life of the contract.”

Success with netbooks is encouraging U.S. carriers to venture into the notebook space, In-Stat said, following the lead of some Asian operators. Providing connectivity to all those gadgets is likely to be a crucial way to shore up the bottom line as voice revenues continue to decline.