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Mobile broadband boom to continue in 2009

Laptops and phones lead the charge

Mobile broadband, for both phones and laptops, is expected to book the economic trend and enjoy another bumper year in 2009.

There will be more than 36 million laptops connected to mobile data networks in Western Europe in 2009, compared to the 26 million estimated for the end of this year, according to market research company CCS Insight.

"It's a little bit more growth than what we have seen this year. Overall, next year you will see a push by all the carriers, but not just mobile carriers, but also from alternative providers as well," said Paolo Pescatore, analyst at CCS Insight.

For example, in Sweden, cable operator Com Hem is collaborating with 3 to offer subscribers mobile as well as cable broadband. The goal is for them to become one-stop shops for broadband, according to Pescatore.

Another big trend during 2009 will be packaging of mobile broadband in various new ways.

"Many mobile operators also have fixed-line assets, so they are very much in a position to package multiple access technologies and compete quite aggressively," said Pescatore.

The mobile operators will also start to package mobile phones and laptop connectivity.

"We are already seeing that today: whereby 3 here in the UK are saying that if you take out a contract with us we'll also throw in mobile broadband at a 50 percent discount," said Pescatore.

Mobile broadband will weather the current economic storm, with growth and data-integration plans continuing, according to Pescatore.

For the mobile data operators both browsing on mobile devices and laptop connectivity will become an even more important source of revenue.

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"We have already seen this year how much of an impact that it's making on total revenue, and this will continue next year given the fact that voice connections are very much saturated, and there aren't many users to connect," said Pescatore.

Laptops will generate a majority of the traffic on a per user basis, but mobile phones will also be an important traffic generator. There are many more phones than laptops in circulation and data browsing from phones will continue to increase for a number of reasons. The industry has only skimmed the surface of what can be done with social networking on the phone, according to Pescatore.

"Social networking will continue to whet consumer appetite for data moving forward and we'll see a lot more collaboration between carriers and social networking sites, as well as social networking sites and device manufacturers," said Pescatore.

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Mobile data growth is still a bit of a tricky proposition for operators because more customers mean more revenue but also a larger strain on networks.

So mobile broadband providers hope users will sign up for a mobile broadband deal in the same way they take out membership to a gym: a subscription makes them feel good, even if they take advantage of it less than they intended, according to Pescatore.


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