The USB modem totally dominates today (although reports of the demise of the datacard have been much exaggerated). We can safely assume that in 5 year's time everything will have gone embedded. There are a lot of implications. Here are just a smattering that spring to mind:
- IT channels become more important in distributing broadband connectivity. MNOs can't compete with the IT channels in range of devices, so they'll end up selling more contracts through those stores. Also they'll be selling an increasing amount of SIM-only mobile broadband.
- Home hubs, such as the T-Mobile Sharedock or the Huawei D100, will become obsolete. Why share your connectivity when all laptops have an embedded modem? To save on cost? Actually that won't be necessary thanks to shared plans, as launched by 3 Australia recently.
- No need for handset-as-a-modem functionality. Why connect to the wide area network via bluetooth to you handset when your laptop has its own modem?
- WiFi won't die out. It'll be a brave laptop manufacturer that first strips WiFi out of their product. Plus, it's perfect for in-home higher capacity connectivity.
- Rapid upgrades to end-user equipment will be difficult, mitigating the need for escalation of the technology arms race. As we get towards market saturation with most users using an embedded modem there's less of a requirement for MNOs to upgrade their networks. Modem upgrades will follow the laptop upgrade cycle, i.e. about every 3 years, making it more difficult for existing subscribers to take advantage of higher network speeds.
And there are many more, but you'll have to wait for the release of Mobile broadband devices: from USB modems to where? for the rest of my conclusions on this fascinating area.