Friday, 13 March 2009

The migration from dongles to embedded modems will have serious ramifications

This week I've been wrestling with the thorny issue of devices. What will the mobile broadband devices market look like in 5 years time and what are the implications?

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

1 comment:

  1. With the increasing popularity of mobile broadband as the only form of internet access USB devices are all but a phase-out-model. I don't think, we will see desktop computers with embedded 3G modems soon, and despite the netbook boom workstations will have their place in many offices and homes.

    Particularly here in Austria, where you can get 3GB for 9 Euros per month (provider: 3) the average web surfer and e-mail reader gets all the internet access needed for much less than a DSL connection. Quite a lot of people I know use their USB modem as their only internet access. Personally I still prefer a cable connection at home, because I need plenty of upload capacity for managing my huge photo collection.