There is absolutely no doubt that mobile broadband has been one of those recession bucking sectors which has enjoyed something of a boom in recent years. However, according to new figures from Broadband Expert that boom would appear to be over.
Working on the basis that the number of people using the comparison website to sign up for mobile broadband services equates directly to the popularity of mobile broadband, at least in the UK, the site suggests that consumers are "realising the technology does not live up to the hype" and this accounts for the 57 percent drop it has seen in the last 12 months. Sales have crashed, I am informed, from around 3,000 in May 2009 to just 1,300 in May 2010.
These findings are not to be taken in isolation, of course, but are somewhat supported by Experian Hitwise data which also suggests a dip of more than 50 percent in the amount of searches undertaken for the phrase ‘mobile broadband’ during that same period.
Rob Webber, Broadband Expert’s commercial director, says that UK consumers have been let down by mobile broadband technology, with slow speeds and poor coverage being the main factors: "Mobile broadband experienced phenomenal growth in the UK as consumers expected all the benefits of a home broadband connection whilst on the move" he says, concluding that the impending availability of a super fast Long Term Evolution(LTE) 4G network will give mobile broadband the shot in the arm it needs to win back consumer confidence.
"We’re already seeing companies rolling out LTE networks in the US and Europe" Webber adds "but the UK is still 12-18 months away from this. LTE should boost mobile broadband speeds massively, with downloads speeds of over 100mbps achieved in testing; so it could outperform and even replace home broadband in the future. However, the UK needs to work faster to adopt the new technology required to reinstate consumer’ faith in the mobile broadband service and help sales recover to their former level".
Surely the major part of the issue here is the source they are using.
The number of hits a comparison website gets is not an indicator of the number of people using mobile broadband, just an indicator of the number of people confused by it.
Mobile broadband is only really suitable for certain people (it is my only personal internet access) and many of those people are already signed up to it so do not need to compare services. Even those who are not already signed up to a mobile broadband service have far more readily available information than before (you can barely walk into a computer store without being bombarded with comparisons of the various obscene amounts you can pay per month for mobile broadband if you buy some ridiculously cheap low end netbook.
Using hits from a comparison website is like declaring that no-one is drinking coffee any more because less people are searching for coffee on Google.