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North America - Slowest Ever Annual Growth, but 3G Development is Positive

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The total number of mobile connections in North America rose to 277.90m at the end of Q1 08, from 257.60m a year earlier. The penetration rate saw a 5.3pp gain to 82.5%. Obviously this figure is close to the 84.9% penetration rate in the USA, the region's largest market by some distance with 92.7% of North America's mobile customers, although it is dragged down by the low Canadian rate of just 60.5%.

The other two markets in the region are so small as to have little bearing on the total penetration rate. St. Pierre et Miquelon, a group of small islands off Newfoundland which are an overseas territory of France, had 2,935 mobile customers at the end of Q1 08, and a penetration rate of 41.7%. Meanwhile, Greenland was the region's most penetrated market by some distance with 96.9% of the population owning a mobile phone, which amounts to around 55k connections.

By far the fastest growing technology in North America is W-CDMA, which saw a 336.7% gain in customers in the 12 months ending 31st March 2008. The total number of W-CDMA connections surpassed the 10m mark during Q1 08 to finish the quarter on 11.12m. This is still below the number of iDEN customers, which stood at 16.56m at the end of Q1, but with iDEN losing 5.09m customers year on year and W-CDMA gaining 8.57m, it seems likely that iDEN will lose its status as North America's third most important technology before the end of 2008.

CDMA remains the dominant standard with 52.7% of the total North American customer base, or 146.49m connections, up from 130.6m (50.7% of the total) a year earlier.

The number of GSM connections broke through the 100m barrier to reach 103.7m at the end of Q1, but growth more than halved from 15.0% in the 12 months to the end of Q1 07, to 7.0% in the subsequent 12 months, as a consequence of the success of W-CDMA. Annual CDMA customer growth was also down compared to the prior twelve months with a 4.4pp fall in the rate, although it remained in double digits with a 12.2% yearly gain.

The total customer growth rate also fell compared to the prior 12 months, from 11.6% to 7.9%. This is the lowest rolling annual growth rate ever recorded in the North American region, and we fully expect it to be the lowest rate of any region in the world in Q1 08.

Rolling Annual Customer Growth Rate

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Tags: w-cdma  iden    Canada  Greenland