Third-Generation Wireless Technology Generates Massive Global Growth

Endlessly hyped for years, 3G, or third generation, mobile phone technology is today truly taking off.

A new research report, by Boston-based Strategy Analytics, demonstrates that more than 100 million people around the globe are now using WCDMA and CDMA2000 1x EV-DO 3G technology on their mobile phones.

The figures, published in the study, “Global 3G Subscribers Hit 100 Million Mark in June,” are current as of June, as 3G-user momentum is accelerating and a strong operator interest “complements” a diverse portfolio of handsets, said Sara Harris, a senior industry analyst at Strategy Analytics.

The number of 3G subscribers is growing faster than that of GSM during the early 1990s, said Harris.

“Reaching the 100 million subscriber mark is a significant milestone for 3G, proving that it is finally beginning to come into its own,” said Harris. “Much of this success is due to the strong pushes by influential carriers like NTT DoCoMo, Hutchison 3G, and SK Telecom, and more recently Vodafone and Verizon Wireless, who have worked hard to drive 3G uptake among their subscribers.”

The firm is predicting that 3G will reach 106 million users by the end of the second quarter.

Western Europe Leads

Western Europe has overtaken Japan as the 3G leader over the first half of 2006, said David Kerr, vice president of the global wireless practice. “The U.S. market is set to grow rapidly in 2007, when Cingular rolls out its HSDPA coverage,” said Kerr, “in an attempt to catch up to the first mover advantages enjoyed by Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel — companies which have benefited from Qualcomm’s leadership in EV-DO.”

The Aussies, however, seem to be lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to 3G adoption. The total number of Australians aware of third generation or 3G mobile phone technology has increased by more than one million during the last three months, but fewer are considering using the technology.

According to Nielsen Media Research’s Panorama Mobile Customer Monitor, the total number of Australians who know of 3G technology, which allows access to music, video calls, and live TV broadcasts on mobile phones, grew to just over 5 million in March from about 3.95 million last December.

Awareness grew fastest amongst 25- to 39-year-old men, who overtook 18- to 24-year-old males as the age group with the highest awareness of the devices.

Expanding Target Group

“This is an encouraging development and adds to evidence elsewhere in the latest survey that 3G is now being considered by a much wider target group than teenagers who download music,” Jody Loughlin, associate director of Nielsen Media, said.

But this doesn’t guarantee the success of 3G services, Loughlin said. “It’s certainly not something they will just buy because it is new technology,” he said.

The survey of 6,000 people, also found the number of Australians using mobile phones grew by 229,000 in the first quarter to 13.8 million.

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