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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dissecting mobile broadband stats

I noticed that the other day that the GSMA put out a press release stating

"Today, there are 245 commercially available HSPA networks supporting more than 125 million live connections in 107 countries. A further 65 HSPA networks are either being deployed, in trial or planned with an average of four million Mobile Broadband connections being added globally on a monthly basis. "

I followed up to get a better definition of what's in that 125m - it turns out that it's a combination of 3G SIM + HSPA device, but does not reflect actual usage. So for example, today I'm accounting for 3 of those connections, with my ZTE HSPA dongle, my Nokia E71 with data SIM, and my SonyEricsson C902 (which is permanently switched to 2G-only for extended battery-life).

I'm wondering what the make-up of that 125m is, in more detail, in a way which suggests actual usage.

My quick and very rough estimates are:

Laptop dongles & embedded modems (actively used) - 35m
Laptop dongles & embedded modems (dormant or inactive) - 5m
3G iPhones (with active data usage, NB most have flatrate data) - 20m
Other HSPA smartphones (active HSPA data usage with flatrate or "decent" data plans) - 20m
Other HSPA smartphones (dormant or without decent data plans / 3G SIM) - 35m
HSPA featurephones (mostly minimal data usage) - 10m

I'm fairly confident about the active laptop use numbers as they originate in my Mobile Broadband Computing research report from a few months ago. I reckon that virtually all 3G iPhones are used "in anger" with HSPA.

But the bulk of other HSPA-enabled smartphones are not used "aggressively", as unlike the Apple they are not always sold with the flatrate data plan as a default option. There's an awful lot of older Nokia N95's, HTC WinMob handsets and similar devices around, used without heavy (or any) data consumption. Newer models like E71's, or Android G1's or BlackBerry Bolds are more-used for data, albeit with lower consumption than most iPhones.

(One variable I'm not too sure about is exactly how to categorise the DoCoMo and Softbank HSPA phones).

Thoughts and comments welcome - this is really just a first pass.


Ram said...


It feels that you are overstating the number of dongles - 40/125 seems like a very high percentage. I would think there are more than 10m feature phones (razr, SE types). Most people buy a 3G feature phone (can you get a non-3G phone in UK these days) and just use it for voice.

Anonymous said...

Being a 3G phone doesn't necessarily mean it's an HSPA phone (to which the GSMA's stats refer).

I am guessing that Dean's assumption for the share by handset is limited to HSPA handsets such as the two he references - the SonyEricsson C902 and Nokia E71.