I've been seeing an awful lot of PR spin recently about the numbers of supposed "mobile broadband" subscribers, and how this will likely "overtake" fixed broadband.
While I'm a big believer in 3G dongles, and also in using devices like high-end smartphones (Nokia, iPhone et al) with decent browsers & flatrate data, there's a huge amount of hype here.
A key thing to remember if you're scrutinising numbers is this:
- Pretty much anyone with a 3G modem for a PC & a data subscription will actually use it regularly (unless it's embedded) & probably generate a huge amount of traffic
- Pretty much anyone with fixed broadband will use it very regularly, and so will 1-3 other members of their family too.
- Quite a lot of people with an HSPA or EVDO Rev A handset will never use data at all, or will use it for very occasional downloads or web browsing. Plenty of Nokia N95 or Samsung Soul owners bought the device because it's got a 5MP camera. (I'd expect most iPhone 3G users to be pretty active with their data connection though).
The idea that there is 100m+ active users of "mobile broadband" in any meaningful sense is doubtful. The fact that someone can download the 50kb front page of their operator's WAP portal at 7.2Mbit/s is not exactly what "broadband" means to most casual observers.
I'm currently working on a model of mobile data users & devices & traffic & applications, but as a rule of thumb some averages might be
PC+dongle = 1GB / month
iPhone-type device with decent data plan =100MB / month
Blackberry-type device or smartphone with limited data plan = 10MB / month
Everything else = 1MB / month or less
In other words, there is what Boris Johnson might refer to as an "inverted pyramid of piffle" when it comes to discussion about mobile broadband. A few % of the users generate a huge % of the traffic, while a large chunk of supposed users (ie people with suitable phones & networks) generate none at all. This will change only slowly, as PC-based mobile broadband is still early in its growth cycle, while 3G is being pushed into handsets of people who still don't care about anything more than voice & SMS.
Bottom line - you'll be seeing a lot more press hyperbole about the numbers of "mobile broadband" users. They might be fruit, but they're not all Apples. But don't compare them with Oranges. (Puns intended, sorry, it's Friday afternoon).