Feature Article

June 01, 2015

Cellular Internet Devices to Grow

Gartner predicts more than 112 million non-smartphone cellular devices will be sold this year.

"Mobile access is not just about smartphones," Gartner research director Tracy Tsai said. "Consumers and business users alike want to connect multiple mobile devices to the Internet at an affordable cost or at an acceptable data rate."

The forecast notes that the price gap between Wi-Fi only and cellular-enabled devices will drop to $20. If the price difference is so small, it only makes sense to buy the product that has more capabilities. This means that the number of cellular devices could go up to 600 million by 2019.

The biggest cellular device segment is tablets, with 50 million sold in 2014 and expected to grow to 76 million by 2019.

The biggest growth will be in emerging markets that haven’t been served with fixed-line broadband that makes Wi-Fi ubiquitous in the West. The market share for cellular tablets was 52 percent in India and 49 percent in Brazil in 2014, while only 25 percent of the tablets sold in the U.S. and 33 percent in Germany were cellular-enabled.

Only 6 percent of households in India have fixed broadband. Given that tablets are cheaper than PCs, even with cellular Internet, it’s not surprising that these devices are the primary way people in the developing world are using the Internet. One of the biggest uses for cellular-embedded tablets is for making VoIP calls.

Cellular access on laptops is expected to remain low, even as the number of cellular-enabled laptops is expected to grow to 4.9 million by 2019. That number will still represent only 2.7 percent of total PCs. The explanation is simple: these computers still sit on desks where either fixed Internet or Wi-Fi is available.

The number of mobile hotspots is expected to grow to from 50 million in 2014 to 70 million in 2019. These devices appeal to people with multiple devices who don’t want multiple data plans. The biggest market is in Japan, where 5 million hotspots were sold last year and that number expected to reach 8.7 million by 2019.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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