Mobile Broadband Adoption Decelerating, Says comScore


comScore released the results of a study of U.S. Internet usage via mobile PC data cards, which showed that the subscriber base - which previously had been growing strongly - began to decelerate noticeably in Q4 2008 with a meager 5% increase.

The study examined the usage and characteristics of mobile PC data card users through data collected from computers where Internet access via mobile broadband Internet service providers (ISPs) occurred. Mobile broadband employs cellular telecommunication networks, where users pay subscription fees for access and the connection is made using a PC card, built-in adapter, or connections can be tethered via a cell-phone or PDA, and is different than Wi-Fi access, which is predicated on the availability of short range "hot spots" where access fees often apply incrementally for each connection.

PC Data Card Growth Pulls Back in Q4 2008

PC data card adoption grew 63 percent overall in 2008, down from the 157 percent growth rate in 2007. A decrease in growth is expected as the relatively small base grows; however, Q4 2008 showed notable signs of softness in the market as sequential quarterly subscriber growth fell to just 5 percent, following sequential growth of 22 percent in Q3 2008 and several preceding quarters of double-digit growth.


Mobile Broadband Subscriber Growth by

Q2 2007 - Q4 2008

Total U.S. - Home/Work/University

Source: comScore, Inc.


Growth vs. Prior Quarter

 Q2 2007


 Q3 2007


 Q4 2007


 Q1 2008


 Q2 2008


 Q3 2008


 Q4 2008



PC Data Card Access Does Not Represent Incremental Internet Usage Overall

The study also compared the Internet usage patterns of mobile broadband PC data card users with the general U.S. Internet population to determine how the availability of mobile broadband affects online time. It is important to understand whether online access via mobile broadband represents incremental Internet usage or merely a shift in usage time between different access points.

When looking at the population in aggregate, the results indicated that PC data card usage actually represents a time-shift in Internet consumption, as PC data card users spent nearly the same amount of time online (89 hours) as typical U.S. Internet users (90 hours) during Q4 2008. Of PC data card users with both a PC data card and a wireline ISP, approximately 25 percent of their total online time (22 hours) was spent using a PC data card.


Time Spent Online Among PC Data Card Users

Q4 2008

Total U.S. - Home/Work/University Locations

Source: comScore PC Data Card Report

Connection type

Spent Online in Q4 2008

Total U.S. Internet Audience


PC Data Card User - Total Time Spent Online


    PC Data
Card User - Time Spent on Data Card


Data Card User - Time Spent on Wireline ISP