Mobile broadband expected to reach 418m Worldwide by 2017

­Newly released forecasts from Coda Research Consultancy's report show that portable laptop and netbook users accessing the internet via mobile broadband will produce US$48bn in operator revenues in 2017, will number 418m worldwide, and will generate and consume an immense 1.8 exabytes of traffic per month - a forty fold increase over 2009.

The most significant growth will occur in the Asia-Pacific region, where users will amount to 162m by 2017. Europe will account for 94m users, and North America for 58m users. Impacts of Long Term Evolution (LTE) will be dramatic, with half of all mobile broadband via netbook and laptop users employing LTE worldwide in 2017. LTE users will hit 38m in 2013 after a ramp up in LTE production in 2012, and will rise to 209m by 2017, a 1100% increase over 2012. Three quarters of users in Europe and nearly two thirds of users in North America will employ LTE in 2017. This contrasts with just over half of users in Asia Pacific, and 12% in Central and South America. LTE take up will be greatly skewed toward European and North American markets in the short to medium term, where ARPU will be highest. However, report envisage significant take up in China, and see countries like India bypass 3G altogether, and move straight to LTE.

More generally, mobile broadband user growth will not correspond with operator revenue growth, particularly in less wealthy regions of Asia-Pacific, thus significantly impacting mobile broadband ARPU. For example, operator revenues from Asia Pacific will grow at only 50% of the rate of users, which contrasts with 63% for Europe. The silver lining however, is that LTE ARPU will be 17% higher than for mobile broadband in general.

LTE operator revenues will be greatest in Europe, where they will rise by a CAGR of 47% from 2012 to 2017, and will form 83% of all mobile broadband revenues in that region. LTE revenues from North America will grow significantly more, at a CAGR of 59% between 2012 and 2017, and LTE will form 72% of its mobile broadband revenues. In contrast, LTE revenues will form only 13% of all mobile broadband revenues in Middle East and Africa.

LTE usage via portables will lead to more traffic per user than for mobile broadband in general. This will further increase pressure upon network capacity, and will hit 1.1 exabytes per month in 2017. Asia Pacific alone will take up 45% of this, whilst Europe will take up a third, and North America 17%.

Video will dominate mobile broadband traffic to and from portables, and will account for over half (53%) of traffic by 2017. The bad news for rights' holders is that one fifth of all traffic will be P2P. Nearly half of video traffic (47%) and nearly two thirds of P2P traffic will be consumed in Asia Pacific. This reflects the dominant position this region will play in mobile broadband usage and how mobile broadband will continue to be the sole vehicle for many people to gain broadband connectivity in developing countries such as India and China.

In summing up the report's forecasts, Steve Smith said, "Clearly, tremendous opportunities for both operators and device and component vendors exist, but the risks are significant. With enormous growth in traffic and considerable decline in ARPU, operators will need to be ruthlessly efficient. Asia Pacific is going to be the hotbed for growth, but it is a complex picture of emerging markets, developed markets and even markets that will leapfrog 3G altogether. LTE is going to be an important cushion for operators, but our research shows they will need to take into account the very different factors impacting 3G and 3G+ growth across regions and decide carefully how, when and where to market LTE."

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