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Monday, February 02, 2009

UK mobile broadband market slowing down

Sometimes not all the most interesting news is available online. I get the paper edition of the UK mobile trade magazine, Mobile Today - and a front page article from a week ago doesn't seem to have made it to the website.

The article is quite short, but the headline states baldly "Mobile Broadband Sales Flat". It states that growth in dongle sales have dropped off since the beginning of the year - presumably a mix of post-Xmas sales lull, coupled with economy-related concerns.

Fitting in with my view that there's only a limited pool of people wanting ongoing monthly contracts, the publication quotes an anonymous Vodafone person saying "Dongle sales are really just coming from prepay now." There is no mention at all of embedded-3G notebooks.

Clearly, the UK is one of the more mature markets for dongles, plus it's also one of the hardest-hit by the economic crisis (despite the protestations of our hapless prime minister). It's also been one of the most prominent in shifting to prepay - I was in Spain last week and tried to get a prepaid dongle, but none of the operators sold them. So it's perhaps not surprising that my domestic market is at the sharp end of any weakness in mobile broadband contract uptake.

However, I suspect that this will be mirrored elsewhere - although mobile broadband will continue to grow in user numbers in 2009, it won't be accelerating as hard as it has done up until now. I'm also expecting it to put further pressure on prices - although perhaps the silver lining in the cloud is that it could mean that radio network congestion risk starts to be pushed out into the future.

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