Stellar Growth in 3G Wireless Broadband

3rd Generation (3G) wireless systems, whose primary focus is wireless broadband (data), arrived on the scene a few years ago. You can say that it’s still at its early stages, but the customer uptake shows a very rosy picture for wireless broadband.

There are many factors driving this. One is mobile music downloading. Following behind but catching up fast is mobile video. Recently, I reported that mobile video subscriptions are surging. On top of that, wireless service providers such as Verizon Wireless are taking advantage of the YouTube craze by Enabling YouTube Video Uploads directly from VCAST enabled phones. Not to be left behind, Veoh Video also recently inked an agreement to provide a Veoh Channel on Verizon Wireless’ VCAST video service. Even handset manufacturers such as LG are joining the fray and enabling YouTube uploads directly from the mobile phone.

In the U.S., Sprint and Verizon Wireless are the unheralded leaders in the quest to build 3G networks. They both cover more than 210 million pops (in other words, a significant part of the U.S. wireless coverage area). Then there’s AT&T, which just rolled out 3G service in 160 markets in the U.S. AT&T recently launched a video calling service that runs on the 3G network, although I doubt that its currently driving much customer demand for 3G.

Another driver of 3G is for use as a broadband link for laptops and personal computers (call them wireless modems and wireless routers).

So How fast is the 3G Broadband Wireless growth? According to Wireless Intelligence, as shown in 3G Today, there are 486 million reported 3G CDMA customers. This is counting CDMA2000 1xRTT customers, which in my mind is not 3G, but perhaps 2.5G.

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Counting “real 3G” customers, there are 68 million CDMA2000 1xEV-DO customers and 127 million W-CDMA (UMTS) customers worldwide, for a total of 195 million. That’s still a small penetration rate, when you consider the overall cellular landscape. However, the 3G numbers are growing at an annual rate of 70%, which points to a very rosy picture for wireless carriers.