Nearly 70 percent of U.S. cell phone subscribers are on a 3G network, according to data released today (and based on info gathered at the end of the first quarter) by Wireless Intelligence. In comparison, at the end of last year only 20 percent of the world’s mobile phones were on a 3G connection. India is in the process of auctioning off its 3G spectrum and China plans to boost its 3G coverage over the next few years, which will boost worldwide 3G. Meanwhile, the U.S. has a lead when it comes to innovation on the wireless front that is driven in no small part by its widespread access to 3G speeds, and its citizens’ willingness and ability to consume them.
In the first quarter of this year, all four of the nation’s top carriers were among the top 10 in the world making money from data revenue, with Verizon (s vz) leading the list for the first time. As power in the industry shifts to mobile computing from the desktop, such dominance is a clear indicator of how fast broadband helps drive innovation.
But it isn’t just the pipe. Consumers have to be able to access the faster networks on their phones, which is why devices like the iPhone (s aapl) have played such a huge role when it comes to both new mobile computing innovations and the boost in data revenues (GigaOM Pro, sub req’d) (and most importantly, data traffic). As we transition to next-generation networks like LTE or WiMAX, the relationship among the pipe, the device and the corresponding level of innovation is notable.