3G subscribers to top 5 million in 2004 but remain low until at least 2005, says Analysys

News

• 3G subscribers in Western Europe to rise from 600,000 at the end of 2003 to 27 million at the end of 2005

• By 2009, around 70% (240 million) of all Western European mobile subscribers will have a 3G-enabled device

• 2004 has seen launches of 3G data services by high-profile operators such as Telefónica Móviles and Vodafone and several operators expect mass-market launches before the end of the year

• Analysys Research report covers Western Europe, with forecasts for France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK

Over 5 million Western Europeans will be using a 3G mobile device by the end of 2004, but subscriber numbers will remain low until at least 2005, according to a new report, Western European Mobile Forecasts and Analysis 2004-2009, released this week by Analysys Research, the global advisers on telecoms, IT and media (www.analysys.com).

Although there has been a spate of 3G service launches in 2004, including those from high-profile operators such as Telefónica Móviles and Vodafone, the report forecasts that by the end of 2004 there will be just 5.3 million 3G subscribers in Western Europe, up from 600,000 at the end of 2003.
However, with many more mass-market launches expected to happen towards the end of 2004 and in the course of 2005, significant growth in 3G subscriber numbers will begin from 2005 onwards. Demand for 3G services is then expected to rise quickly, with around 70% (240 million) of all Western European mobile subscribers using a 3G-enabled device by the end of 2009.

"Several Western European operators have launched 3G data services in 2004, increasing the likelihood that others like Orange, T-Mobile and TIM will be successful in entering the 3G mass market during the year," said Ariel Dajes, author of the report. "Recent market developments also make it more likely that handset manufacturers like Nokia will be able to deliver sufficient numbers of 3G handsets of the right quality in the second half of 2004."

According to the report, the relatively slow initial growth of 3G subscribers can be attributed to three key factors - operators have experienced problems in sourcing 3G handsets, 3G networks are restricted to major built-up areas, and major operators are focusing on getting a return from their GPRS investments.

"3G handset design has been widely criticised by operators with complaints that their size, appearance, and battery life will not be acceptable to customers who, over the last few years, have seen huge innovation in GSM handsets," added Dajes. "At the same time, equipment manufacturers have complained that issues surrounding handset availability are to do with networks not being ready to enable proper testing."

The report notes that network coverage issues are being addressed in some cases through the use of alternative technologies like EDGE. A number of operators such as Orange and TIM are deploying EDGE to enhance their GPRS networks and to complement their 3G W-CDMA coverage in rural and low traffic areas.

With 3G subscriber numbers remaining low until at least 2005, the role to be played by GPRS has increased. The report forecasts that revenue from GPRS subscribers will grow from EUR28 billion in 2004 and peak at EUR63 billion in 2007, before declining as customers move from GPRS to 3G.

Western European Mobile Forecasts and Analysis 2004-2009 analyses the key factors that are driving the mobile market in Western Europe, and provides detailed forecasts of subscribers, ARPU, revenue, retail spend and average spend per user (ASPU) for Western Europe as a whole, as well as for France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK. It covers four market segments (residential prepaid, residential contract, SMEs and large corporates) and eight service categories (voice, P2P messaging, data networking, browsing, paid information, e-tainment, m-commerce, and videotelephony).

The report is available to purchase online at http://research.analysys.com/store.