Mobile Broadband Makes a Shambles of "Broadand Penetration" Statistics

At the end of 2009, Forrester expects mobile Internet penetration to reach 17 percent in Western Europe, the same adoption rate for the PC Internet a decade ago. If the growth rate remains the same, mobile broadband would hit something on the order of 60 percent to 70 percent penetration in 10 years.

That would make a shambles of efforts to quantify broadband penetration in Western Europe, as similar trends in the U.S. market likewise would make most current concerns about broadband penetration likewise irrelevant.

We have seen this sort of thing before in the global communications business. Policymakers used to wring their hands about voice penetration in developing countries. But monthly costs of $5 to $10 a month now are making mobility the way many people are getting access to voice. Increasingly, wireless handsets will be the way most people in developing regions get access to Internet communications and applications as well.

U.S. policymakers thought a major revamp of communications policy would spur competition in voice, almost precisely at the point that Internet applications were about to make those concerns, if not moot, then of much-lesser concern.

Forrester expects mobile Internet to grow to 39 percent penetration by the end of 2014. That's a lower end point than for the PC Internet in 2004, but the growth curve per se looks quite the same, Forrester Research says.

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