Study: Wireless market set for subscriber surge

Worldwide subscriber numbers projected to jump from 1.5 billion in 2004 to more than 2.5 billion in 2009, fueled by CDMA.

The number of wireless subscribers worldwide is projected to jump from 1.5 billion at the end of 2004 to more than 2.5 billion in 2009, after years of sluggish growth, according to a new study.

China leads in terms of overall subscriber growth, but other countries like India are quickly picking up the pace, In-Stat/MDR said in the study, which was released this week. The market is witnessing strong growth after suffering from the economic downturn, the report said.

India is expected to fuel global subscriber growth. In Europe, the growth will be slower as markets mature, particularly in Western Europe, the market researcher predicted.

The GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) cell phone standard, which is more popular in Europe, will continue to see steady expansion until 2007 as consumers migrate from older technologies, the study showed. But from 2008 onwards, GSM is expected to see a decline in market share as operators shift to wideband CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), the cell phone standard that is popular in the Americas and parts of Asia.

"While GSM will remain the dominant airlink throughout most of the forecast, CDMA airlink standards will pass GSM in 2009 to claim the largest share of the market in terms of number of subscribers," Ken Hyers, a senior analyst at In-Stat, said in a statement.

The U.S. subscriber base should rise at a compounded annual growth rate of 5.6 percent through 2009, with CDMA remaining a dominant technology, In-Stat said. GSM will gain, mainly at the expense of TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access), which is likely be phased out by 2007. GSM growth will slow down after 2007, as subscribers turn to wideband CDMA, the study said.

Meanwhile, the number of mobile phones shipped in 2004 is expected to reach 625 million, according to a study released this week by iSuppli. That compares with 520.8 million units shipped in 2003.

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