The market for mobile broadband modems used in non-smartphone mobile computers, tablets, and CE devices is at a tipping point. According to market intelligence firm ABI Research, more than 53 million modems and mobile hotspot routers shipped in 2014, valued at US$4.1 billion in end-user revenues.
Despite the growth in local high-speed LTE mobile network access, fewer PC owners are buying aftermarket USB modems and deciding to stick with Wi-Fi connectivity. Also, global audiences are holding off Notebook PC upgrades and replacements for budgetary reasons as well as considering what type of solution is needed going forward.
Sr. Practice Director Jeff Orr, says:
“The vendor landscape changed significantly in 2014 with several suppliers exiting the computing modem business, changing strategic focus to exclusively M2M / IoT, or being acquired.”
Modem stalwart Huawei continued its leadership by supplying approximately 62% of the world’s modem unit volume in 2014, up about 1% from 2013. ZTE remained in second with 26% unit share. More than 53% of worldwide shipments supported up to the HSPA+ air interface protocol, while nearly 11% included support for the 4G LTE protocol.
In 2015, ABI Research predicts 16% modem revenue growth on the backs of embedded modem module adoption in ultraportable computers and tablets.
“OEMs are seeing greater demand for mobile broadband in tablets as well as ultraportable PCs. The plan could be foiled, however, if pricey mobile broadband service contracts deter potential buyers,” adds Orr.
Similarly, if a greater percentage of tablet makers switch from using a self-contained modem module to design-in chipsets as happened with Apple’s iPad family, future module business will be jeopardized.