Tablets Push Cellular Crunch

Tablets Push Cellular Crunch

The number of cellular connections is expected to double over the next decade, highlighting growth in devices other than cell phones, such as in tablet computers.

Industry trade group GSM Association announced the results of a study suggesting cellular connections will grow from six billion to more than 12 billion by 2020, bringing in revenue in excess of $1 trillion. Cell phones already saturate much of the industrialized world, so the predicted growth may most likely come from other devices, such as tablet computers.

Tablets are continuing to make industry inroads, starting with Apple’s market-dominating iPad. The iPad has moved beyond consumer and business markets to education, becoming a fixture in many schools and replacing weighty textbooks on college campuses.

Niche tablets, such as Brainchild’s Kineo aimed at elementary-school students, are also making their way into public school districts around the U.S. A tablet for students in India that costs just $35 shows even economic hardship won’t necessarily slow worldwide growth.

At a panel event at the CTIA fall trade show, AT&T’s head of emerging devices, Glenn Lurie, commented on the tablet trend and its impact on the future of the cellular industry.

“We’re really just scratching the surface,” he said, holding his iPad, one of his company’s best sellers. “The next big thing is this.”

The tablet market is expected to score with businesses, too, with predicted sales of 10 million tablets in 2011 alone. Corporations account for about a quarter of the tablet market, with healthcare, retail and manufacturing leading sales.

Tablet growth will most likely be largely consumer-driven, however, as people increasingly use simple, portable devices to surf the Web, use social media and apps, read books and magazines, watch movies and TV shows and play games. The iPad and its competitors, like Amazon’s Kindle Fire, affordably priced at $200, may put tablets alongside smartphones in many households and open the majority of those predicted cellular connections.

GSMA’s prediction signals growth in the cellular industry isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon, and true saturation may not even be possible as long as new devices continue to come to market.

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