The worldwide mobile broadband market will reach 1 billion connections during 2012, segmented by 3G and 4G network technologies, according to Pyramid Research.
"Mobile operators around the world will invest billions in the spectrum and network infrastructure to deploy 4G networks, but are struggling to keep pace with 3G data traffic growth driven by the use of smartphones and USB dongles, as well as bandwidth-intensive video content and applications," says a report from Pyramid and Heavy Reading. "These challenges require a transaction-based business case that allows them to more fully monetize the broadband traffic generated by mobile Internet services, content, and applications."
"Operators planning to deploy 4G networks face many technical, strategic, and business complexities in how to manage their network evolution and critical questions on how to get a return on their investments," says Berge Ayvazian, Senior Consultant, Heavy Reading, and Director, 4G Consulting Practice.
A separate study from ABI Research finds that mobile data usage continues to grow exponentially as 3G technology spreads globally. The firm says that from 2009 to 2015 data usage in Western Europe and North America is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 42% and 55% respectively. In 2010, the average North American user is expected to consume 159 megabytes of data – up from 100 megabytes in 2009.
"Mobile voice has already been surpassed by mobile data traffic on some networks, and this trend will only accelerate," says ABI Research wireless analyst Bhavya Khanna. "This boom in usage is driven by the rapid adoption of smartphones in these markets."
ABI notes that the explosion in data traffic doesn't mean a corresponding rise in data revenues for operators, as the popularity of unlimited or fixed price plans caps revenue even as usage grows. However, AT&T may have set a precedent with its new rates that find those fixed price plans harder to come by in the future.