Emerging Markets Still Key for 3G Growth


U.S. mobile carriers may be hard at work mapping out their 4G deployments, but there’s still plenty of room for growth in the worldwide 3G market, according to figures released this morning by Wireless Intelligence. The London-based market research firm said global 3G connections grew by roughly 60 million in the third quarter yet still account for just 20 percent of mobile connections around the world, up from 18 percent a year ago. Total 3G connections grew 28 percent year-over-year to reach 889 million.

Unsurprisingly, WCDMA growth far outpaced CDMA2000, with combined WCDMA and WCDMA-HSPA connections increasing by 58 percent during the quarter compared to 8 percent growth for CDMA2000. WCDMA-HSPA also recorded the highest net additions, and the technology more than doubled its connections base over the last year to reach 158 million worldwide connections. Just as predictably, emerging markets fueled much of the 3G growth in the latest three-month period. Rwanda grew its connection base by more than 120 percent year-over-year, Cambodia was up 80 percent and Zimbabwe’s connections rose 58 percent.

Perhaps most impressive, though, was the continued growth demonstrated by the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in China and India — the world’s two largest mobile markets. China — which didn’t officially issue 3G licenses until January 2009 — grew its total connections by 15 percent year-over-year (to 698 million) while India saw 49 percent growth (to 472 million). The two countries account for more than half of all 3G connections in the Asia-Pacific region, which boasts a whopping 45 percent share of all global wireless connections.

And both markets are well positioned to see that growth continue. India, which boasts a population of 1.17 billion, is set to hold a spectrum auction in January that will be open to foreign companies, while China’s investment in 3G infrastructure will hit $6.3 billion this year with another $6.1 billion to come next year, according to iSuppli. So while LTE advances across Asia and WiMAX may eventually find traction in emerging markets, the near-term prospects for 3G services around the world still look very bright indeed.

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons user Alex Covarrubias.



MTNL also offers 3G in the Indian metros of Bombay and Delhi. But as it is a government company, I shudder to even consider how badly they could have screwed up an industry so demanding as the wireless service sector.

| Balu |

India does not have 3G as of now. The auctions have been postponed about 5 times till now in the past one and a half years. As of now the dates are fixed at Jan second week. Hopefully it won’t be postponed yet again. Because of the same reason we don’t have many 3G phones here and most people use GRPS, very few use EDGE

Anand Srinivasan

Do we have 3G in India yet? As far as I know, it’s still offered as a ‘for the heck of it’ service by the government owned BSNL while the license for others are yet to be issued..

Jason Lackey

Here at InnoPath (Sunnyvale based maker of over the air support software for mobile phones) some of the most exciting things we are seeing are in India, where probably the most innovative carrier, Tata DoCoMo, is one of our customers (think along the lines of Richard Branson’s Virgin empire with an Indian accent and you have Tata). They are certainly cool and innovative and are growing at an almost insane pace (few million subscribers added each and every month) but the market in India is not without its challenges, including fun things like bogus IMEIs on handsets, detailed here: http://thecsr.blogspot.com/2009/12/30-million-to-go-silent-in-india.html and here: http://thecsr.blogspot.com/2009/04/like-fertilizer-in-your-baby-food.html

Interestingly while Nokia seems to be struggling and thrashing in North America, they pretty much own the developing world and show considerable cluefulness there with things like Nokia Life Tools, http://www.nokia.com/NOKIA_COM_1/Microsites/Entry_Event/phones/Nokia_Life_Tools_datasheet.pdf

These places are interesting, but factors unique to these markets, such as the 3rd screen being the screen (folks may have a smartphone but no pc/mac or laptop), make doing business there different from the US or Europe. One example is doing things like system updates. In North America, the likes of Apple may expect people to have a PC running iTunes which can be used to download entire system images and then reflash the phone. However, if the 3rd screen is your only screen you probably can’t do an iTunes sync very well and thus you would really like to use FOTA (Firmware Over The Air) to update the OS on the handset, something that folks like Nokia have embraced for years that others are also coming around to, including the likes of Verizon and AT&T here in the US.

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