Monday, May 3, 2010

Launch of 3G IPad Follows Global Trend in Portable CE Connectivity

Wi-Fi connectivity is one of the key features of connected tablets being introduced into the market this year. In addition, IMS Research forecasts that 3G mobile broadband will be present in over one-third of tablets shipping worldwide from 2011 onward.

Apple's iPad is the second 3G connected tablet to enter the market, following ARCHOS 5 Internet Tablet. Carriers' distribution of the 3G iPad is expected to begin at the end of April with AT&T in the US, and international rollouts are set to follow at the end of May via T-Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica and likely others. IMS Research estimates that in 2010, about 32% of tablets will be sold via mobile network carriers.

Suppliers, such as Technicolor and Sagem, which are focusing on offering in-home tablets marketed via fixed Internet service providers (ISPs), are also planning to introduce 3G-enabled models within the next 12 months. In the fixed ISP segment, suppliers will be using 3G to differentiate products and offer consumers the flexibility to take these devices outside of the home and function as a portable media player. IMS Research estimates that in 2010, approximately 15% of tablets will be distributed via fixed ISPs.

Anna Hunt, author of the recently published study, states, "Many consumers desire the flexibility that 3G data services are enabling in portable devices, eliminating the dependency on Wi-Fi home networks and hotspots. One of the more exciting developments is that carriers are becoming more flexible in their data offerings, which will further drive sales of 3G-enabled portable CE such as tablets." For example, AT&T has announced that it will offer two domestic data plans for iPad purchasers without requiring a contract commitment. Hunt adds, "Carriers are likely to offer more lower-cost non-contract deals with limitations on data usage in order to lessen the strain on 3G networks created by growth in smartphones and the plethora of other connected devices such as netbooks. And of course, service providers are also realizing that many consumers will be unwilling to sign another data subscription contract."

Certain competitors to the Apple's iPad, such as ARCHOS 5 Internet Tablet, are planning to allow for smartphone tethering extending the connectivity of Wi-Fi only tablets. Tethering allows for a Bluetooth connection of the tablet to enable Internet access via a 3G phone. Currently, this feature is not supported by the iPad.

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