Worldwide USB modem shipments may have peaked as total first half shipments were down for the first time since the convenient data modem debuted in 2006, according to ABI Research.
While USB continued to lead all modem types with 62 per cent shipment share, volumes are soft at a time when aftermarket PC upgrades should be accelerating.
"Whether this is another example of a tough economic year for PCs or the start of a change in modem form-factor trends, USB modems have been the leading force behind mobile broadband modem shipments since 2006," said ABI Research senior practice director Jeff Orr.
Analysts at ABI Research noted that the greater adoption of mobile broadband modems in portable and mobile computing and the rollout of 4G networks have not been enough to overcome a downturn in USB modem shipment volumes.
There were 49 million mobile broadband modems shipped in PC and consumer electronics devices worldwide in the first half of 2012, according to ABI Research. Total 2012 mobile broadband modem shipments are estimated to reach 108 million.
Market leader Huawei continued its reign, shipping just over 50 percent of all mobile broadband modems and nearly 65 percent of all USB modems during the first half of 2012.
The other form-factor bright spot was embedded modem modules, where Apple commanded a similar 65 percent share due to adoption of its 3G/4G iPad tablet models.
Meanwhile, mobile hotspot routers are continuing to gain traction in the most competitive markets but have yet to make a splash as a direct USB modem replacement. Japan's mobile network operators in aggregate added more subscribers in 2011 on mobile hotspot routers than USB modems. This trend has not yet carried over to regions like Western Europe or North America, observed ABI Research.
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