A massive growth in wireless-broadband services has been forecast, with the market set to be dominated by cellular technologies.
Telecoms analyst Analysys Mason predicted there will be a total of 2.1 billion wireless-broadband customers globally, generating $784bn (£401bn) in service revenue by 2015 — an increase of some 2,400 percent.
Cellular broadband technologies — such as HSPA (also known as 3.5G) and LTE (the long-term evolution of 3G) — will take the largest share, with 20 times as many customers as alternative wireless-broadband technology WiMax by the end of 2015.
WiMax will contribute just two percent of global revenue by then, after failing to achieve significant market share, according to the analyst.
The analyst predicted the number of HSPA and HSPA+ customers will rise from 61 million globally by the end of 2008 to 1.1 billion by the end of 2015. This increase will be down to GSM operators taking the obvious cellular route for their technology's evolution, it said.
Writing in a report entitled Wireless broadband forecasts for 2008-2015: HSPA, HSPA+, EV-DO, LTE and WiMax, co-author Dr Mark Heath said HSPA will support the vast majority (88 percent) of all wireless-broadband consumers by the end of this year, and its importance is set to continue for years to come.
HSPA and HSPA+ will carry on playing an important role, supporting 54 percent of users by the end of 2015, despite the increasing availability of the 4G offerings LTE and WiMax, he added.
Report co-author Dr Alastair Brydon added that the "vast majority" of mobile-network operators will upgrade to LTE rather than WiMax, "resulting in over four times more LTE users [then WiMax] by the end of 2015".
By 2015, the analyst said WiMax customers will number just 98 million, with the vast majority (92 percent) in developing regions.
The report suggests WiMax will do best in the developing world, owing to the lack of fixed-line infrastructure there. In developed markets, it will be squeezed by both fixed and cellular broadband services, the report adds.
WiMax has made modest progress in the UK, with three commercial networks up and running in parts of Manchester, Milton Keynes and Warwick, and a greater number of business networks. But there are, as yet, no plans as grand in the UK as US telco Sprint Nextel's plan to build a nationwide WiMax network.