Looking back on broadband trends in 2009

Early in 2009 we wrote an article looking at what we thought would be the top wireless trends of 2009. It is time to review our top ten list to see how well our bets were placed.

We think that 2009 has proven to be a particularly formative year:

  • Verizon solidified plans for deployment of LTE:
    • Announced Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson as prime infrastructure suppliers
    • Issued LTE device specifications
    • Gave more guidance on rollout plans
    • Made progress in trial deployments
  • The pace of acquisition emerged from the deep-freeze economy to be ignited across network and wireless infrastructure, middle-tier software and service providers:
    • Verizon closed the Alltel acquisition
    • Cisco acquired Pure Digital Technologies, Tanberg and Starent Networks
    • Ericsson acquired Nortel GSM and Torrent Technologies Corp.
    • Motorola acquired BitBand
  • WiMAX met our predicted growth trend: slow but steady due to economic factors.
  • There were an increased number of Google Android handsets introduced, including the Motorola Droid based on Android 2.
  • There was continued growth of iPhone sales but also issues of service quality due to capacity constraints.
  • The FCC proposed new net neutrality rulemaking.
  • Verizon and AT&T initiated lawsuits and advertising battles over 3G wireless broadband coverage, setting the stage for the 4G battle to come.
  • The U.S. government broadband stimulus program met some snags due to the mountain of proposals received.
  • Mobile broadband usage met or exceeded most operators' expectations despite economic slowing.
  • Mobile applications drove a greater percentage of handset and subscriber sales: iPhone entered the year at a distinct advantage. Google Android ended the year with significant momentum.
  • The hype for smart grids resulted in little impact on the market.
  • CTIA and individual operators clamored for additional broadband spectrum amidst the pincher of rising demand and looming capacity limitations.

2009 shaped up as a year of emerging rational optimism that things are looking up for the industry. A significant emphasis was seen in video devices, infrastructure and software services, making this stand out against the relatively subdued landscape. 

Overall, we must say that 2009 was not as disastrous a year as it seemed at the outset, starting as it did with the catastrophe and bailouts for the financial industry, real estate and the auto industry. Rather, 2009 was a year of preparation and consolidation that has returned to a more rational phase, characteristic of the boom-bust roller coasters we have experienced over the past several years.

A review of broad industry trends:

Trend #1 - Flat and prepay plans gained increased market share during 2009. While this put downward pressure on ARPUs and margins, the industry was bolstered by the complimentary rise in 3G broadband.

Trend #2 - Corporate moves to control spending did not stall shifts to greater use of communications. Similar to trends we have observed in cloud ICT/computing, organizations have reacted to the economic downturn by relying on technology coupled with communications to become more efficient.

Trend #3 - Government initiatives for broadband infrastructure and service development have gone forward in the U.S., China and Brazil to name a few. While many are supplemental to ongoing efforts, increased government spending was significant...Continued.

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