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Why boom times are ahead for mobile broadband on tablets

by David Needle

May 9 2013

More affordable mobile broadband for tablets will help keep road warriors more connected.
More affordable mobile broadband for tablets will help keep road warriors more connected.

The age of the always-connected tablet may not be far off. While most tablet buyers buy WiFi only models, a new report says broadband subscriptions are set to take off.

WiFi-only tablets have been ‘good enough’ for most consumers and business buyers who couldn’t justify the extra expense of buying a higher-priced model and monthly fees similar to what they’re already paying for their smartphone. For example, the latest WiFi-only 16GB iPad is $499, but the same model with cellular included is $629.

But Strategy Analytics says new service pricing is helping stimulate a big expansion of mobile broadband on tablets, predicting an 8x jump in the number of subscribers from 2012 to 2017 when over 165 million new tablets will activate mobile data services.

This could well be great news for road warriors and any business person who stands to benefit from broader connectivity options than WiFi offers.

Strategy Analytics says 4G LTE has fast become the access technology of choice and will account for more than 80% of all mobile broadband tablet subscriptions by the end of 2017.

The price is right

The main driver of higher adoption of mobile broadband are the various deals carriers are offering that let you add a tablet as part of a shared data allocation plan along with cell phones. Some companies are also bundling mobile broadband as part of the tablet purchase such as T-Mobile’s 4G Connect "comes-with-data" tablet offering.

"Mobile broadband tablets represent an important incremental growth opportunity for wireless operators. While direct mobile broadband subscriptions on tablets represent less than 10% of the total tablet installed base in 2012, they were a key driver of positive postpaid net additions at leading operators AT&T and Verizon Wireless in Q1 2013," said Susan Welsh de Grimaldo , Director of Wireless Operators & Networks at Strategy Analytics.  

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