The mobile broadband market is valued at USD 1 trillion, according to a report by Yankee Group. By the end of 2013, Yankee Group forecasts 114 million active LTE connections globally, increasing to 258 million by the end of 2014.
But the price of mobile devices and services will need to come down dramatically to connect the next billion people, according to the CEOs of Nokia, Qtel, Bharti Airtel, and Mozilla.
“As an operator, we have to package services to the lower segment of the economy,” said Nasser Marafih, CEO of the Qtel Group, during a keynote address at this week’s Mobile World Congress.
Qtel yesterday announced a new brand, Ooredoo, which will cover various wireless carrier brands throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
CEO Manoj Kohli of India’s Bharti Airtel said smartphone adoption is key to bringing people to the Internet, although prices have to come down. Kohli said he would like to see smartphones get down to the $30 level, with wireless dongles down to $10.
Marafih and Kohli sounded optimistic about finding a compromise with the over-the-top players, with Marafih saying they need support from the carriers to optimize their services and content delivery. “I believe that OTT players and telecom players are partners,” Kohli said. “They just need to define how to live together.”
Yesterday, Nokia launched the Nokia 105, which will sell for around 15 euros. The lower end phones have the Nokia Xpress browser, a cloud-based Internet service that runs faster than traditional browsers and consumes less data.
The executives, meanwhile, agree that no one company or industry can bridge the digital divide for the next billion or beyond.
“We’re all going to participate in writing the next chapter of the Web,” said Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs who previewed the first commercial build of its Firefox OS open mobile ecosystem and announced new operator rollout plans. The first wave of Firefox OS devices will be available to consumers in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela. Additional markets will be announced soon.
Global LTE subscribers will pass 100 million in 2013, according to IHS iSuppli, more than doubling the 2012 numbers, and hitting 198 million by the end of 2013.
By 2016, LTE will claim more than 1.0 billion users, as shown in the figure above, equivalent to a five-year compound annual growth rate of 139 percent.
According to Wireless Intelligence, the five largest mobile operators in the world are China Mobile, Vodafone, América Móvil, Telefónica, and Bharti Airtel. They all have over 200 million subscribers each, about twice the size of AT&T or Verizon Wireless in the United States.