Wireless modem devices come in a variety of form factors including USB modems, PC cards, embedded modules, and wireless routers. Among the external devices, USB modems have become the most popular products — so popular that ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com) forecasts shipments of nearly 81 million this year.
Today, the majority of wireless broadband subscribers enjoying portable connectivity use USB ports. The alternative, the PC Card slot, has rapidly been displaced since USB’s introduction in 2006.
“The main reason for USB modem popularity is versatility at a low price,” says Jeff Orr, principal analyst, mobile devices at ABI Research.
According to ABI Research’s Cellular Modem Product Tracking Database, more than 50% of the modem models now available in the market utilize the ubiquitous USB interface. Orr says USB dongles connect the subscriber to a specific network rapidly and without installing drivers. As new networks using the latest 3G or 4G protocols emerge, the USB modem is ready to update the installed base of portable and mobile computers, he adds.
The question remains whether embedded modem modules in new computers or the recent interest in personal hotspot routers connecting multiple Wi-Fi devices to a single wireless WAN connection can overtake the popularity of USB dongles.
Research associate Khin Sandi Lynn points out that, “In the long run, more devices are looking for a network to connect to. The wireless modem market can solve this in many ways — different form-factors, air interface protocols, and increased attention to style and cultural interests.”
The mobile broadband modems available in the market today support a variety of air interface technologies. According to ABI Research’s database, approximately 50% of the wireless modems in the market support GSM, GPRS, EDGE or HSDPA.