Cellular and mobile broadband PC modem shipments grew more than 55 percent in 2009. In 2008, a total of 46.4 million such modems (including USB models, PC Card modems, and wireless routers) shipped; in 2009, that figure grew to more than 72 million, according to market data released by ABI Research.

“The USB modem continues to flourish,” said senior analyst Jeff Orr, in a statement. “At the end of 2009 there was a surge of consumer adoption. Business adoption was less robust.”

USB modems’ popularity can be attributed to their low cost, flexibility and portability, as well as to subsidies frequently offered by network operators.

“Huawei is the market leader by a significant margin,” said Orr. “In 2009 Huawei extended its market share of all PC modems and routers to almost 50 percent, and it supplied 54.3 percent of all USB modems.”

Of the two minority modem formats, the PC Card and the router, PC cards continue to decline in favor of USB. ABI Research expects that except for a few specialized vertical markets they will largely disappear by 2013.

While the category of routers that connect Wi-Fi devices to a cellular or mobile broadband connection was reinvigorated last year with the introduction of Novatel’s MiFi product (and similar devices from Huawei and others), the case for a “personal hot-spot” is still unclear.

Many people own several Wi-Fi-enabled devices, but they rarely want to use them all simultaneously, away from home. Nor do many consumers seem to want to add another subscription for the sake of that ability, according to the ABI report “Cellular and Mobile Broadband PC Modem Market Data.”

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