Mobile Broadband Growth Slowed Fourth Quarter 2008

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The growth in new mobile broadband subscriptions fell significantly in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to a new report.

The total mobile PC data card subscriber base grew 5 percent in the final three months of 2008, compared to 22 percent growth in the prior quarter, according to comScore, a respected Internet measuring and tracking firm. While it is important to not look at a glass half empty (overall PC data card subscriptions grew 163 percent in 2008), the rapid slowdown in new subscriber growth seems to correspond to the much lamented general economic weakness that many nations are experiencing.

Mobile broadband is different than Wi-Fi Internet access. According to comScore, “mobile broadband employs cellular telecommunication networks, where users pay subscription fees for access and the connection is made using a PC card, built-in adapter, or connections can be tethered via a cell-phone or PDA, and is different than Wi-Fi access, which is predicated on the availability of short range ‘hot spots’ where access fees often apply incrementally for each connection.”

comScore reports, “The study examined the usage and characteristics of mobile PC data card users through data collected from computers where Internet access via mobile broadband Internet service providers occurred.”

“The PC data card market is clearly in the early stages of its adoption curve, with the overall number of subscribers multiplying in the past few years,” said Serge Matta, comScore senior vice president. “That said, we’ve observed a significant deceleration in subscriber growth during Q4 2008 coinciding with the economic downturn, an indication that mobile broadband service may still be seen by many as a luxury rather than a necessity. Now is the time for mobile broadband providers to solidify their market position, because as the economy begins to recover and discretionary spending resume the market will likely accelerate once again. Verizon appears well-positioned for this eventual resurgence, having gained 2 market share points in the past year.”

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