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Global 3G subscriptions hit 50 million, says UMTS Forum

UMTS/WCDMA accounts for two thirds of worldwide 3G total

Mobile industry association The UMTS Forum www.umts-forum.org affirms that worldwide subscriptions to 3G mobile networks have now passed the 50 million mark, with UMTS/WCDMA subscribers outnumbering those using other 3G technologies by a factor of two. The UMTS Forum's estimation is based on a combination of published industry statistics and internal data held by its member organisations.

Thanks to a sustained period of growth, UMTS/WCDMA customers now stand at approximately 33 million worldwide - an increase of more than 15% in the total base since the end of June this year. 3G/UMTS subscriber growth remains significantly higher than that of 2G/GSM networks in their first few years of operation.

Correspondingly, subscriptions to the other fully commercialised 3G technology, CDMA 1x EV-DO, now exceed 17 million worldwide - mainly in South Korea and Japan. This figure represents one third of the global aggregate of 50 million customers spanning both 3G technologies.

Japan remains the world leader in WCDMA network subscriptions. As of end August this year, there were more than 16.5 million Japanese WCDMA customers, representing just over 50% of the global 3G/UMTS user base.

Italy ranks second to Japan in terms of subscriber numbers, with just over 6.75 million customers on its four 3G/UMTS networks. The UK, meanwhile, currently ranks as the world's third largest 3G/UMTS market with just over 4 million customers.

"This milestone of 50 million customers worldwide shows emphatically that 3G is a true commercial reality", said UMTS Forum Chairman Jean-Pierre Bienaim, speaking at today's Planning and Deploying HSDPA conference in London.

"With more than 75 WCDMA networks now launched commercially and a choice of terminal devices that already exceeds 180 models, it's no surprise that 3G/UMTS customer numbers are growing faster than ever", added Bienaim . "A compelling blend of handsets, tariffs and user-friendly services are convincing more consumers and business users to experience the benefits of 3G/UMTS for themselves. Supported by a fast-growing choice of terminal options, it's already clear that net customer additions will increase rapidly from now right through to this year's busy Christmas sales period - and beyond."

Bienaim also highlighted the evolving capabilities of 3G/UMTS that will offer business customers and consumers even higher data rates and new service capabilities: "With the first deployments of HSDPA anticipated from next year, the true value of 3G/UMTS as an enabler for high speed mobile broadband will soon be fully realised."