US to Top 3G Chart in 2010

The U.S. will be home to more 3G mobile subscribers than any other single territory in 2010, according to research conducted by the UMTS Forum. Presenting a snippet of the data that will be released at the forthcoming International Telecommunication Union (ITU) event in Hong Kong, Forum chairman Bernd Eylert said China and India would trail the U.S. in terms of the number of 3G users in 2010, with Germany and the U.K. taking the fourth and fifth spots. The Forum does not include CDMA2000 1x users in its calculations -- its figures include subscribers to networks deploying WCDMA, EDGE, China's homegrown TD-SCDMA, and CDMA2000 3x, which will use a 5MHz channel instead of the 1.25MHz used by CDMA2000 1x technologies. By 2010, according to the Forum's figures, more than one-third of 3G revenues will come from the Asia/Pacific region -- $118 billion, with the global revenue total at $320 billion. "The Asia/Pacific region is such a valuable test bed for Europe," says Eylert, quickly adding that NTT DoCoMo Inc.'s (NYSE: DCM) experience to date is an "exceptional case -- what has happened with the FOMA service should not be extrapolated" to predict what will happen elsewhere (see DoCoMo Claims 3D First). Rather, the rapid uptake of devices with color screens and embedded cameras, and the resulting use of wireless data services, should be seen as an encouraging sign for 3G, he says. The Forum is, predictably, upbeat about the global prospects for the uptake of WCDMA systems and the services that will run over them. It is particularly taken by the potential for what it describes as "customized infotainment." This will, says Eylert, account for 36 percent of the $118 billion that 3G users will spend in Asia in 2010, followed by that stalwart service known as "voice," which will bring in 28 percent of that total. Multimedia messaging will bring in about 13 percent, according to the Forum's findings. Even by 2010, however, mobile data subscribers will not all be signed up to 3G services (especially if you don't count CDMA2000 1x as 3G). According to the Forum, there will be 700 million mobile data subscribers in the Asia/Pacific region in 2010, so that includes all those 1x users, as well as those hooked up to GPRS networks. Nearly half of this total will be in China, while India and Japan will account for nearly 100 million each. China has a lot of subscriber growth ahead of it, though it is hardly slacking just now. About 4 million mobile subscribers are coming on board each month at present, and there will be 200 million wireless users in China by the end of 2002, according to the Forum's figures. But 3G is the Forum's main concern, and Eylert's optimism even spreads to the attitudes of financial analysts, many of whom have cast off the idea that 3G will ever pay its way for the mobile carriers, while some have placed a zero value on 3G startups such as Hutchison 3G UK Ltd. "The climate has changed in the past few months with the analysts," claims Eylert, who says the spreadsheet brigade are encouraged by the approach of the mobile community to the whole 3G market, including more prudent capex plans and the recent launch of more attractive mobile data services. Unstrung would love to hear from any analysts at financial institutions that have any positive outlooks for carriers and their 3G plans. — Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung www.unstrung.com
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