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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

If WiFi's going to be in so many phones... why not in Japan or Korea

I keep hearing people telling me how WiFi will inevitably make its way into an ever-greater proportion of the mobile marketplace, and how its attach-rate curve will start to mirror that of Bluetooth.

I'm unconvinced. E- and N-series Nokia and HTC excepted, plus a handful of UMA featurephones, it's really not a big deal at the moment. Even where it is being shipped in dualmode, it's not used that much - nobody buys (or is given) an N95 for the WiFi, it's all about the 5MP camera. The Thing in your pocket might by Many Things, but it's not really a WiFi Thing from a customer perspective. The iPhone might turn out to be a bit of standard bearer for WiFi but that's still not going to change the overall statistics that much.

More importantly, dualmode doesn't really seem to be happening in the two countries that are usually 'leading indicators' for any new mobile tech uptake - Japan & Korea. Sure, there's a handful of dual-mode phones in Japan like the NEC 902iL and Motorola M1000 and one or two from KDDI. Yes, Korea has a boatload of WiFi hotspots, but there doesn't seem to be much impetus to include the capability in the average handset - KTF has its NESPOT Swing dual-mode service, but it's very PDA-oriented.

So while I'm expecting to see a continued growth of Nokia & assorted Windows devices with WiFi, plus the iPhone, the odd UMA device and perhaps VCC feature phone (and yes, probably a handful of Motos & S-Es), I really don't see massmarket devices adopting WiFi - especially when aimed at the global marketplace where not that many people have broadband+WiFi at home.

I reckon a reasonable target for 'attach rate' of WiFi into the global mobile phone market is 10-15% by 2011 in terms of shipments, so probably <10% into the installed base for at least 5-6 years. And I'd punt at an active-usage rate of probably around 3-4% in the same timeframes.


Mo said...

This might sound a bit screwed up, but what I reckon will happen is that the mobile phone manufacturers will view the iPod family as a threat—I don't think for a second that the iPod Touch, long-term, will be the only iPod (iPhone excepted) that ships with WiFi, and networks have been pushing the manufacturers forever to compete with the iPod (because the iPod “does” iTunes, and they want a slice of that pie).

I think an upsurge in dual-mode handsets isn't likely to happen, but a steady growth in WiFi capabilities is. The other portable audio makers will start adding it to compete with the iPod, and that will drive the phone makers to do the same to compete with the entire portable audio player scene.

Once WiFi is prevalent on phones—18-24 months for the audio players to catch up, 24-36 for the phones, perhaps?—then we'll see an increase in services taking advantage of it.

(There's an awful lot more to this, really. The iPod Touch is actually very compelling as a potential PDA—almost the device that Palm should have been producing. It'll be interesting to see where Apple takes it, and what its competitors in both the cellphone and portable audio spaces do in response).

Markus said...

I love mi Nokia's Wifi and use it every day, even now I write on it. Look also out for next year's Wimax devices! They will look like the iPod touch and have built in broadband.

Zed said...

There simply isn't enough processor power in mobile devices to take advantage of Wifi compared to 3G. To add insult to injury Wifi sucks the battery dry faster.

- Zed

Anonymous said...

No Cellfi in IT-wonderland - Korea.
Main reason is cannibalism. Korean domestic market is dominated by SKT(50%) and then KTF(30%)and LGT (20%) follow. Largest hotspot owner KT and its sister company KTF don't like VoIP. SKT doesn't have WiFi Hotspot and also hate VoIP. LGT, due to its small market share has small impact whatever sevices they come up with. KT's WiFi based swingphone is a fiasco.
KT is now expanding its Wibro(mobile WiMax). Public WiFi is actually doomed in South Korea.
Due to rapid adpotion of 3G and HSPA, SKT and even KTF have great interest in Femto, not WiFi UMA...