WCDMA family connections reach 150 million, says Wireless Intelligence


Worldwide WCDMA connections will hit 161.7 million at the end of Q3 2007, according to Wireless Intelligence, having broken the 150 million connections milestone during August. Wireless Intelligence currently forecasts that this will more than double to reach 324 million by the end of 2008.

Wireless Intelligence collects reported data from the world's cellular operators. It has reported WCDMA data from about 100 operators, which account for 66% of the market. For the remainder it estimates subscriber numbers. Since HSPA is a subset of WCDMA, it estimates the split between the two using the reported total.

According to WI, the majority of WCDMA family connections are based in two regions - near-equal shares of 76.2 million connections for Western Europe (47.1% of the world total) and 72.2 million in Asia Pacific (44.6%).

Western Europe will far surpass Asia Pacific by the end of 2008. However, Wireless Intelligence is not yet carrying WCDMA forecasts for some markets, such as China and India, where licensing dates are not yet known. 

WI expects to see healthy growth in the next two largest regions (Eastern Europe and USA/Canada) but do not forecast any major change in the mix.

Sequential WCDMA family net additions show increasing growth, as well as a solid seasonality pattern to sales. Worldwide WCDMA family net additions for Q2 2007 were 20.5 million, of which 2.7 million were for WCDMA HSPA. However, WI expects to see less seasonality for the next year on WCDMA as it increasingly starts to eat into the installed base of GSM subscribers. Volumes from now through to 2008 will be driven by holiday sales, and sustained by the push to make WCDMA available for prepay subscriptions.

Annual net additions show a similar, steadily increasing, picture. Year-on-year net additions for the WCDMA family in Q2 2007 were 67.1 million.

According to WI, in terms of percentage growth, WCDMA HSPA has (unsurprisingly) rocketed above that of its more mature parent during the initial rollout. The end of Q2 2007 does see a shift of sequential WCDMA HSPA growth from above 100% to an altogether more modest level of 30-50% as the technology settles in during 2008. Even at this level, it represents a solid, robust migration to HSPA. In comparison, during a similar adoption period for the cdma2000 family, sequential growth levelled off at 15-20% for EV-DO and its younger sibling, EV-DO Rev. A.

Growth for the WCMDA family as a whole in the Q1 to Q2 2007 period was 17.5%.

Top countries by net additions
Japan leads by some margin with 4.5 million net additions for the quarter, accounting for 23% of the worldwide total. Strong performances from countries in Western Europe and Asia Pacific make up the majority of the list. The top ten markets shown account for 75% of the worldwide WCDMA family net additions for the quarter.

Largest operators

NTT DoCoMo is, by a long way, the single largest operator for WCDMA family connections.

WI last looked at the WCDMA market balance in Q1 2006. As before, the top five operators alone still account for nearly 50% of the total WCDMA family base in Q2 2007. There still exist three tiers in the top 20 - NTT DoCoMo out front, followed by the bigger eight operators. Other operators contribute to the overall total with much the same contributions.

This picture is a case of more of the same, says WI. In a year and a half, the top players (and early adopters) have further increased the gap between themselves and the competition. DoCoMo will have put on 20 million net additions in a little under two years by the time Q4 rolls by. Meanwhile, presumably spurred on by DoCoMo's fierce competition, Softbank will have netted a modest 9.5 million additions in the same period. For the other operators it is a story of sustained growth, says WI.

Rank Operator Country Connections
1 NTT DoCoMo Japan 38,397,903
2 Softbank Mobile Japan 9,223,120
3 3 Italy Italy 7,420,000
4 TIM Italy Italy 5,495,123
5 Vodafone Italy Italy 5,323,303
6 Vodafone Germany Germany 4,198,869
7 3 UK United Kingdom 3,665,461
8 Vodafone Spain Spain 3,577,690
9 SFR France 3,449,645
10 AT&T (Cingular Wireless) United States of America 2,801,611
11 Vodafone UK United Kingdom 2,622,344
12 Orange France France 2,559,178
13 O2 UK United Kingdom 2,500,571
14 Telefonica Moviles Spain 2,247,844
15 Chunghwa Telecom Taiwan 1,693,030
16 Wind Italy 1,605,120
17 Orange UK United Kingdom 1,527,115
18 Vodafone Portugal Portugal 1,454,465
19 Telstra Australia 1,419,200
20 Hutchison Australia Australia 1,405,000

WI says it already sees operators kicking off with a fast adoption rate for HSPA, driven by relatively low implementation and rollout costs, network coverage and affordable handsets. KTF and SK Telecom, both in South Korea, are leading the way in signing up new customers as well as aggressively migrating their installed base.

WI says it expects to see this trend accelerate into 2008-2009 as HSPA uptake increases in Europe and adoption in other countries worldwide kicks in.