The market for mobile broadband connectivity for portable computers has been slow to gain momentum over the past several years. But that’s apparently about to change.

Only in the past 18 months has the U.S. market taken significant steps toward broader adoption beyond the traditional mobile worker. According to a new International Data Corporation (IDC) forecast, the U.S. mobile broadband market will grow from 6.5 million subscribers in 2009 to 30.2 million in 2014, which accounts for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36.1% over the forecast period.

The introduction of subsidized netbooks and tablets, changes to pricing structures, and the early availability of 4G with WiMAX (and upcoming LTE deployments) have begun to spur interest among the consumer segment about the power of mobile broadband as a secondary access method beyond wired broadband. Although the possibility of mobile broadband becoming a primary access technology remains a figment of our imagination, it is not beyond the realm of possibility in for the longer term.

“Mobile broadband is growing in importance for both consumers adopting the service and the operators offering connectivity,” says Carrie MacGillivray, program manager, Mobility Services. “Diversity in pricing plans, new computing devices capable of mobile broadband connections, and the promise of a 4G world with faster speeds are a tempting proposition for customers looking to be ubiquitously connected regardless of location, anytime.”

The evolving landscape of wirelessly connected devices such as Appleā€™s iPad will also have a positive impact on this market. As devices such as tablets — which are rich in digital media experiences — become more broadly available and consumed, the appetite for instantaneous connectivity will drive growth around mobile broadband.

— Dennis Sellers