Huawei and ZTE Lead PC Modem Market While Litigation Heats Up

New York, New York - February 24, 2011

Markets for broadband cellular modems are showing signs of maturity, and the USB segment in particular is starting to become commoditized as Chinese suppliers Huawei and ZTE capture growing market shares at the expense of their competitors.

“One can tell a maturing market by the displacement of new product innovation by litigation,” comments ABI Research senior practice director Jeff Orr. “This was certainly the case in the mobile broadband modem market as vendors engaged legal teams to enforce patent and IPR ownership. In December, for instance, Novatel Wireless filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Franklin Wireless and ZTE.”

In another case, OPTION of Belgium asked the European Community (EC) to investigate modem dumping by Chinese suppliers in member states. That request was dropped after Huawei agreed to buy OPTION's RF business in Germany and license OPTION's connection management software.

USB-format modems continue to make up the lion’s share of this market with nearly 125 million shipments forecast for 2013; but shipments of embedded modem modules slowed in 2010 compared to the previous year. Some vendors had entertained high hopes that 3G modem-equipped netbook sales through mobile network operators would kick-start embedded modem markets, but they were doomed to disappointment: embedded 3G modems in netbook computers just didn't gain traction with consumers. This, says Orr, was primarily because MNOs were not perceived as a leading channel for buying computers. Both Huawei and ZTE have started making embedded modem modules now, but they are not significant players there yet.

If there is hope for the embedded modem module market, it may lie with media tablets. Apple makes its own embedded modem module for the iPad, and, says Orr, “The intense interest in media tablet devices has increased hopes that embedded modules will have a higher or more significant attach rate than for other system types.”

ABI Research’s new “Cellular Modems and Mobile Broadband Connectivity” study provides insights and analysis of market dynamics that influence, drive and inhibit the adoption and growth of PCMCIA cards, USB modems and embedded modules. It includes shipments and revenue data and forecasts, as well as a description of the competitive landscape and profiles of selected ecosystem participants.

It is included in the Cellular PC Modems Research Service.

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