PC Pro has a report suggesting that the various 3G and other variants of mobile broadband could supplant fixed line broadband services such as ADSL and cable by 2010.
3G data cards have been around for some time, but the usage allowance was usually measured in 10's of Mega Bytes but the last year has seen products appearing at just £10 per month with 1000MB (1GB) of usage included. The result of this is that sales are booming, but it is too early to predict whether this is latent demand for a service that small businesses and pro-consumers want, i.e. to be online no matter where they are.
The mobile data cards, while offering much better value than previously, are still pretty light in terms of allowances- 7GB could set you back £25. The same amount of money on a fixed line service would get a lot more data. One real danger that perhaps only those in the most crowded parts of the country may be seeing is the level of contention present on the wireless networks. A big unanswered question is whether the mobile networks will expand capacity as more people sign-up to keep current performance levels. In the fixed line broadband arena we see some providers waiting until a network reaches breaking point before upgrading and others upgrading before capacity issues rear their head.
Many of the unlimited mobile packages do have fair use policies which have limits. The mobile market pioneered the use of unlimited in advertising with clauses that could see them charging you for excess usage or changing your product.
So what of the future of broadband? Is it to be the sci-fi vision of every device being connected wirelessly to the Internet? Well it seems to be heading that way, though it is likely fixed-line will survive in the home and business place as the advances in fixed line speeds are currently out-pacing that of wireless. We may see millions of mobile data cards sold in the next two years, but in all probability the bulk of usage will remain with fixed line providers.