Thursday, 30 April 2009, you mean "mobile internet"

Orange reported Q1 2009 results and the news wires are alive with stories of massive mobile broadband success. The headline-grabbing figure was that the "number of 3G broadband customers was up nearly 80% in one year, with 20.6 million customers at 31 March 2009".

To achieve such spectacular success, presumably the mobile broadband fever that has grabbed the world has finally infected France, like a tourist fresh from Cancun? But no. What they're referring to is all 3G and EDGE devices, the vast majority of which are handsets. Yes, they're including EDGE handsets as "mobile broadband".

I shouldn't criticise too much as it's a definitional issue, but really the industry should be looking for some clarity at the moment and "mobile broadband" is a term that should apply to laptop connectivity, not handsets. The GSM Association's Mobile Broadband Service Mark is predicated on providing some clarity for laptop users akin to the WiFi logo. If MNOs aren't clear on what mobile broadband is, there's no way that subscribers will be.

Another reason why I shouldn't criticise is that Orange is the first operator to publish any decent figures for mobile broadband (as I define them) subscribers. The actual "dongle" users are as follows:
  • France - 511k (+134% y-o-y)
  • UK - 228k (+280% y-o-y)
  • Spain - 223k (+153% y-o-y)
  • Poland - 379k (+38% y-o-y)

The reason they've started to publish these numbers? The numbers Orange are reporting aren't for the most part that spectacular, compared to some of the competition (although the Poland figures are good). Perhaps they're assuming that crowing about their success will encourage their more successful competitors to own up to how many MBB subscribers they have.

If you want to know how many mobile broadband subscribers there are in each of Orange's market, and further afield, I'd recommend taking a look my recent report for Analysys Mason: Mobile broadband in Europe: forecasts and analysis 2009–2014, which includes current market sizings for 30 countries in Europe as well as forecasts for each.

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