Number of 3G users in US to overtake Japan in 2011, but China will take top spot in 2014

4 Aug 2009

Japan is at the vanguard of 3G technology development, network build and commercialisation. NTT DoCoMo launched the world’s first commercial 3G network in late 2001, and while service providers in 115 other countries have since followed suit, Japan still lays claim to the largest 3G subscriber base in the world. With almost 92 million UMTS users at the end of March 2009, Japan has 50% more 3G subscribers than the United States, and three times as many as South Korea.

Over the next five years all this will change. While Japan’s progress to date has been impressive, 3G users now account for 85% of the total wireless subscriber base, which means the technology now only has a limited pool of late adopters to migrate. Combine that with a sub-4% annual growth rate across all wireless subscribers, and the market is close to saturation. This is not the case with any other country. None even comes close to the current Japanese 3G take-up rate, thus they have plenty more growth potential.

With a substantially larger population, the US will overtake Japan for 3G subscribers in 2011. At that point the US 3G market will still be growing strongly, but within three years it too will lose first place as China inevitably overtakes it. At around the same time, India will surpass Japan and take over the number three spot in the ranking. On a regional basis, the number of Asian 3G subscribers at the end of 2013 will be two times greater than the number of Western European subscribers and four times greater than the number 3G subscribers in North America.

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