30 Dec 2008

3G Americas on LatAm region's contribution to the 4 billion global mobile subs

Just before the Christmas break, our friends at 3G Americas flagged up a historic milestone for the cellular industry, announcing that as of December 2008 there exist "4 billion connections to mobile devices worldwide." Citing the number crunching of our very own market watchers at Informa Telecoms & Media, the GSM family-focused wireless industry trade association noted that this "represents 60% of the entire global population today" and that "in some countries, millions of people are now experiencing connectivity to the world for the first time through wireless and changing their economic, social and political fortunes forever."

The 3G Americas release goes on to quote Marisol Gomez, our LatAm region analyst, with whom I've had the pleasure of working in the last few months. Marisol says: "the Latin America and Caribbean region continues to show steady consumer growth with 16% year-on-year growth as subscription numbers are expected to reach in excess of 440 million, equating to 76% penetration."

I remain keen to keep an eye on the Latin American mobile scene, not least because preparations for the next GSM Americas/Americas Com conference are well underway. As part of this, the Com World Series team is now working much more closely with our Sao Paulo-based colleagues at sister company Informa Brasil. Marisol and I have both been involved in detailed briefings designed to ensure that we harmonise our efforts with our Brazilian friends and jointly add value to an already well-established regional discussion and networking forum. We return to Rio de Janeiro for the 2009 iteration, hosting the event at the wonderful beachfront Windsor Barra Hotel 30th June-1st July.

It's gratifying to see the folks at 3G Americas continuing to cite Informa TM market information given that I've personally striven to develop further our partnership with Chris Pearson, who heads up the association and Erasmo Rojas, who leads activities in Latin America. For as long as I've been involved in our Americas event, Chris and Erasmo have jointly led a co-located 3G Americas Executive Briefing, which assembles CxO-level speakers from leading mobile carriers. We are on track to offer this feature of the conference once again in 2009, and both sides have been discussing how we can do even more to ensure that the audience maximises the opportunity to engage with the panellists and derive maximum value from their presence.

Chris and Erasmo both seem very keen that the wider conference begins to offer more insights around the roadmap for evolution towards LTE.

"Third generation technologies continue to evolve and the GSM operator today has a clear path towards LTE," stated Chris earlier this month. "In addition to the evolution to LTE by GSM operators, LTE is proving to be the technology choice for CDMA operators as well."

3G Americas quote Informa TM's estimate that there are nearly 415 million 3G subscriptions to date, with 77% share of the 3G market on UMTS/HSPA networks or 320 million connections, and the remaining 95 million on CDMA EV-DO. Our figures suggest that the number of commercial UMTS/HSPA networks has risen to 258 in more than 100 countries, including 41 networks in 20 countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

"HSPA and HSPA+ will compete with any and all mobile wireless technologies available today and in the near future," concludes Chris Pearson. "In fact, recent commercial launches of HSPA+, such as that of Telstra in Australia, are reporting peak theoretical downlink speeds of 21.6 Mbps. 3G is more than capable of delivering the bandwidth customers need today, and the emerging LTE technology provides us with a clear evolution path for the future."