updated 11:40 am EDT, Tue August 4, 2009
US to Overtake Japan in 3G
The number of 3G phone users in the US should overtake those in Japan for the first time in the space of two years, a new TeleGeography study says. Although Japan has had the largest 3G base since becoming the first country to get the speed in 2001, it's expected that the sheer number of users in the US will eclipse Japan's by 2011. The delay comes partly because of very quick adoption in the Asian country, where about 85 percent of all its users have 3G hardware.
The anticipated US gain will come partly through population, as the US has more than twice Japan's population and therefore has an edge in reaching a market that's still largely unsaturated. Most Japanese carriers, such as NTT DoCoMo or KDDI, are seeing a less than 4 percent growth rate. However, the increasing popularity of the iPhone and other smartphones are contributing to a surge in demand for 3G in the US, whose phone preferences had normally skewed towards simple phone-first designs like the Motorola RAZR that didn't need 3G.
Dominance in 3G customers isn't expected to last for long, however, as the expansion of 3G in China is poised to give the even larger country the edge by 2013. Faster networks already exist in China through carriers like China Unicom but should get a larger boost through the introduction of the government-backed TD-SCDMA standard on China Mobile, which with over 415 million customers eclipses the entire US population.
It's unclear if specific devices will have any impact on the Chinese market. Although Apple is nearing an iPhone 3GS deal with China Unicom that may be finalized soon, smartphones may get a bigger help in China through the government's support for the Android-based Open Mobile System and its expected use with phones from HTC, Lenovo and others on at least China Mobile's network. [via GigaOM]