Friday, 9 January 2009

SIM-only mobile broadband? No point before 2012.

I saw this article on The Inquirer yesterday about the lack of SIM-only mobile broadband options provided by UK operators. They asked all the UK operators (5 MNOs plus Virgin Mobile) and some admitted that the SIM could be removed from the USB modem and used in a different device but none has a dedicated SIM-only offer.

This is far from surprising. The reason for the growth in SIM-only in the handset space is that there are tens of millions of spare handsets sitting around which only require an active SIM to be placed into them to bring them back into service. Mobile broadband has no such installed base of equipment. USB modems have only been selling for a little over a year meaning there are only a few million devices in the market of which most are still under contract and few can be considered spare. Even when there are a large number of USB modems in the market, most people will opt to simply buy a cheap new modem (prices are steadily dropping) rather than get a new SIM for an old one which by then will be labouring on the previous generation of technology.
There will only be a viable market for SIM-only when large numbers of laptops are in the market with embedded MBB functionality and no ongoing contract. That won't be much before 2012.


  1. I had figured it would take a while for this market to evolve. Vodafone now claim to offer SIM-only MBB, but only on contract. Their PAYG rate for the service bundled with my Dell laptop is painfully expensive - over £8 per day!

  2. 3 sims can be used for mbb as long as they are brand new Anne