Mobile Broadband Subscriber Growth Decelerates in Q4 2008
comScore has published the results of a study of U.S. Internet usage via mobile PC data cards, which showed that the subscriber base - which previously had been growing strongly - began to decelerate noticeably in Q4 2008.
The study examined the usage and characteristics of mobile PC data card users through data collected from computers where Internet access via mobile broadband Internet service providers (ISPs) occurred.
PC Data Card Growth Pulls Back in Q4 2008
PC data card adoption grew 163 percent overall in 2008, slightly ahead of the 157 percent growth rate in 2007, a confirmation of the market's strong growth trajectory. However, despite this rapid adoption curve, Q4 2008 showed the first signs of softness in the market, as sequential quarterly subscriber growth fell to just 5 percent, following sequential growth of 22 percent in Q3 2008 and several preceding quarters of double-digit growth.
Mobile Broadband Subscriber Growth by Quarter
Total U.S. - Home/Work/University Locations
"The PC data card market is clearly in the early stages of its adoption
curve, with the overall number of subscribers multiplying in the past few
PC Data Card Access Does Not Represent Incremental Internet Usage Overall
The study also compared the Internet usage patterns of mobile broadband PC data card users with the general U.S. Internet population to determine how the availability of mobile broadband affects online time. It is important to understand whether online access via mobile broadband represents incremental Internet usage or merely a shift in usage time between different access points.
When looking at the population in aggregate, the results indicated that PC data card usage actually represents a time-shift in Internet consumption, as PC data card users spent nearly the same amount of time online (89 hours) as typical U.S. Internet users (90 hours) during Q4 2008. Of PC data card users with both a PC data card and a wireline ISP, approximately 25 percent of their total online time (22 hours) was spent using a PC data card.
"That aggregate Internet usage via PC data card is not incremental to standard wireline Internet usage suggests that it's a valuable convenience feature for many Internet users," added Matta. "That said, there are also certain segments with PC data cards that do spend additional time online, likely indicating that these segments see PC data card as more of a necessity. Carriers seeking to generate strong PC data card subscriber growth during the current downturn will need to focus their marketing efforts on the differing needs of the various segments and consider offering financial incentives in this tough economic environment if they hope to continue attracting new users."