With mobile network costs already threatening to overtake revenues, the GSMA's forecast that operators will invest nearly $100 billion (€68.4 billion) in HSPA, HSPA+ and LTE networks over the next five years is also a cause for concern.
Mobile broadband users storm ahead
Wireless broadband adoption is increasing at unprecedented speed, and has surged past fixed broadband by subscribers, according to recent research.
Infonetics estimates the number of mobile broadband subscribers grew nearly 60% in 2010 to 558 million, surpassing the 500 million wireline broadband users.
According to GSMA figures released yesterday, much of the growth in mobile broadband is coming from HSPA. The body predicts that HSPA alone will reach 500 million subscribers worldwide by the end of June.
The Association notes HSPA is now the fastest growing wireless technology ever, with 19 million users being added per month - a growth rate 6-10 times higher than the speed of early 2G adoption. The GSMA counts 350 live HSPA networks across 132 countries. Of these 88 use HSPA+, and another 52 plan to upgrade to it.
LTE subscribers have, meanwhile, passed one million a year and a half after the first commercial launch, the group states. The estimate comes after ABI Research indicated that LTE take-up had been exceeding expectations.
Looking forward, the GSMA predicts there will be over a billion HSPA users by 2012, and 300 million LTE subscribers by 2015. But it warned that growth in wireless broadband adoption could be limited by a shortage of spectrum, unless more governments move to allocate digital dividend frequencies.