Huawei Maintains Mobile Broadband Modem Lead but as Form Factors Shift the USB Market Tumbles

17 Oct 2012

​Greater adoption of mobile broadband modems in portable and mobile computing and the rollout of 4G networks have not been enough to overcome a downturn in USB modem shipment volumes.  New data analysis released from market intelligence firm ABI Research finds that 49 million mobile broadband modems shipped in PC and Consumer Electronics devices worldwide during the first half of 2012.  While USB continued to lead all modem types with 62% shipment share, volumes are soft at a time when aftermarket PC upgrades should be accelerating.

USB modem shipments may have peaked as total first half shipments were down for the first time since the convenient data modem debuted in 2006.  “Whether this is another example of a tough economic year for PCs or the start of a change in modem form-factor trends, USB modems have been the leading force behind mobile broadband modem shipments since 2006,” says senior practice director Jeff Orr.  Prolonged LTE network launches and tighter consumer budgets have hindered expected modem upgrades for 4G networks.  Total 2012 mobile broadband modem shipments are estimated to reach 108 million.

Market leader Huawei continued its reign, shipping just over 50% of all mobile broadband modems and nearly 65% of all USB modems during the first half of 2012.  The other form-factor bright spot was embedded modem modules, where Apple commanded a similar 65% share due to adoption of its 3G/4G iPad tablet models. Former module leader Ericsson Mobile Broadband Modules was acquired by ST-Ericsson late last year and the modem maker has succeeded in migrating less than 10% of the former module business to the new entity.

Mobile hotspot routers are continuing to gain traction in the most competitive markets but have yet to make a splash as a direct USB modem replacement.  Japan’s mobile network operators in aggregate added more subscribers in 2011 on mobile hotspot routers than USB modems.  This trend has not yet carried over to Western Europe or North America.

These findings are part of ABI Research’s Mobile Broadband Routers & Modems Research Service, which includes Industry Analysis, Market Data, Insights, and Competitive Assessments.  Part of the Devices, Applications and Mobility Research Practice, this service delivers the most comprehensive resource for PC and CE mobile broadband connectivity.

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