Cellular base station demand depends on uptake of 3G technology, In-Stat finds

Demand for cellular base stations depends largely on the uptake and usage of 3G technology, the generation of mobile phone and technology standards that support such advanced services as high-speed Internet access and mobile video, according to a recently published report by research firm In-Stat.

The report states that while many factors impact base station demand, the largest is 3G demand and usage. Should the uptake of 3G services be light in the next several years, the only new base stations required would be those to support more subscribers and those to support old or broken base stations; however, if 3G demand increases heavily, the number of base stations required to keep up with the demand could be large, with operators paying for new base stations with service revenues.

The sticking point, at least in the eyes of In-Stat, seems to be which way demand for 3G technology will go in coming years. “Our forecast for 3G data use falls somewhere between very little use and heavy use,” said Allen Nogee, an analyst with In-Stat, in a press statement. He added that while there were some signs that 3G use will increase, especially as demand for advanced wireless technologies climbs, competing technologies such as WiMAX and wired Internet access would reduce 3G data demand. In addition, the cost of 3G services can be prohibitive in some areas.

Among other findings cited in the report, more than 4.7 million cellular base stations will be in operation worldwide by 2011, cellular demand in China and India will keep sales of GSM base stations strong for “many years” and licenses for TD-SCDMA will be given out this year, but the shipments of TD-SCDMA base stations will “pale in comparison” to WCDMA base stations.

The report, titled “Five-Year Worldwide Cellular Base Station Update, 2006-2011,” is currently available (for a fee) at www.instat.com.