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3G customers worldwide pass the 100 million mark at mid June 2006 PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 June 2006

As worldwide subscriptions to 3G networks exceed 100 million, industry association The UMTS Forum has confirmed that WCDMA is the world's most popular 3G technology by a factor that is fast approaching three to one.

According to figures from mobile market information provider Wireless Intelligence and UMTS Forum member sources, the 100 million subscriber milestone represents almost 75 million UMTS/WCDMA customers and more than 25 million CDMA2000 1x EV-DO customers. This ratio - rapidly approaching 3:1 between the two standardised 3G technologies - contrasts with the picture just eight months ago. In September 2005 the ratio between WCDMA and EV-DO subscriptions stood at just 2:1.

In addition, WCDMA's popularity with Western European customers has accelerated rapidly in recent months. As Wirelesss Intelligence indicates in its newly-published bulletin Western Europe net additions Q1 2006: 3G springs to life, uptake of WCDMA has now reached a clear 'tipping point'. In the first quarter of the year, WCMDA represented no less than 95% of total net subscriber additions (WCDMA+GSM) in Europe.

"We're seeing a profound change in dynamics between WCDMA and GSM in the net additions picture", notes UMTS Forum Chairman Jean-Pierre Bienaim. "During 2005, the contributions of GSM and WCDMA to total net subscriber additions in Europe were roughly equal. Today consumers don't need so much encouragement to pick 3G/UMTS over GSM: they're finding out for themselves that third generation is the only choice to meet their lifestyle needs."

Bienaim cited the attractiveness of WCDMA terminals and growing awareness of 3G multimedia services as key factors driving rapid migration to 3G/UMTS by European mobile subscribers. "There's a choice of well over 300 WCDMA terminals worldwide - and current models are scoring strongly on battery life, size, weight and desirability. We're also seeing must-have services like mobile TV encouraging European consumers to opt for 3G/UMTS when they make their mobile purchasing decision."

"The indications are that this might just be a very good year for next generation in Western Europe", comments Wireless Intelligence Director Martin Garner. "The shift from GSM to WCDMA in the net additions picture has been particularly remarkable. Although WCDMA was always going to begin taking a greater share of the market during 2006, a jump of this significance has come two or three quarters earlier than expected."

As of May 2006, there were more than 110 WCDMA networks operational in 48 countries. In addition there were 40 operators providing both EDGE and WCDMA coverage in 27 countries worldwide. Within Europe, 28 operators providing complementary EDGE/WCDMA coverage in 18 countries. The UMTS Forum predicts that global 3G/UMTS subscriptions will reach 100 million during the fourth quarter of this calendar year. Moreover, the second phase of 3G/UMTS is now progressing with more than 25 HSDPA networks deployed in May 2006 - enabling 3G customers to experience the full capabilities of mobile broadband.

Figures provided by Wireless Intelligence also indicate that Western Europe represents just over half of the world's total WCDMA subscribers. The region currently holds 50.4% of the global WCDMA subscriber base, with Asia Pacific contributing 47.8%. The remainder - less than 2% - is contributed by subscribers in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, USA/Canada and Africa.

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