One billion mobile milestone edges closer

21 Jul 2006

A robust first quarter and a slightly stronger second quarter has led tech analyst IDC to suggest that the milestone of one billion mobile phones shipped is tantalisingly close for the mobile industry. Sales of mobile in the most recent quarter were up 22.5pc on the year to 237.8 million.

According to IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, 470.7 million units were shipped so far in 2006, bringing the industry closer to shipping one billion units for the full year.

“The industry has been eyeing the milestone of one billion handsets shipped in a single year for some time and many believe 2006 will be the year it happens. However, while the first half of the year has been impressive, IDC does not see this milestone being surpassed this year,” said Ryan Reith, research analyst for IDC’s Mobile Phone Tracker.

“Although the demand for handsets in emerging markets continues to soar, the market’s surging growth rate has been balanced by slowing demand in select mature markets.”

While the majority of handset shipments were made up of entry-level devices, the second quarter also witnessed strong growth in handsets capable of utilising bulked-up, third-generation network infrastructure.

With EV-DO and UMTS now common in the many regions throughout the world, 3G networks and services are becoming an increasingly significant part of the mobility world, IDC claims.

The analyst firm says that the presence of established high-speed networks has resulted in the introduction of new handsets capable of video conferencing, internet access at broadband speeds and real-time content sharing, all of which drove increased demand during the second quarter.

“With a number of carriers marketing subscription services that take advantage of 3G’s advanced capabilities, all of the major vendors are now offering 3G-compatible devices across multiple regions,” added Reith.

“There has been much talk about 3G being a standard but that could only become a reality when carriers were able to market services that were appealing to consumers.

“With competitive services in place to drive usage on mobile phones for applications beyond voice, handset vendors are putting an increasing amount of resources into 3G handsets. Nevertheless, lower-end devices still make up the majority of the market,” Reith said.

During the first quarter, Nokia shipped 78.4 million units, increasing its marketshare from 31.3pc last year to 33pc this year. Growth was driven by sales of its N-series and E-series device lines.

Motorola continued to dazzle with sales of 51.9 million units and growing its global marketshare from 17.5pc to 21.8pc this year.

Other manufacturers like Samsung saw its global market share fall from 12.5pc last year to 11.1pc this year with 26.3 million units shipped while Sony Ericsson posted a slight growth in market share from 6.1pc last year to 6.6pc this year with 15.7 million units shipped.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Nokia N90