Page Impressions Ltd Blogcetera: UK Mobile Dongle User Numbers – Feb/March 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

UK Mobile Dongle User Numbers – Feb/March 2009

I have been researching the number of users now using 3G mobile dongles to link to the Internet in order to offer some insight into this largely hidden phenomenon.

Globally the market for 3G dongles is set to grow from 20 million units in 2008 to 26 million units in 2009 despite the downturn.

In Europe, some of the strongest growth has been recorded mainly due to the near saturation level of mobile usage compared to other parts of the world due to aggressive marketing push from the operators and the handset manufacturers.  This has resulted in an interesting development amongst Generation Y, those users born between 1978-2000.  This group have led the way in not bothering with fixed access telephony and are consequently adopting the 3G Dongle as their preferred method of Internet access.  Much of this growth is based on competitive all-you-can-eat tariffs and ease of use.

In the UK, which makes up approximately 3.5% of worldwide dongle sales, the mobile dongle user community now makes up over 4% of the overall broadband market.  These figures may not seem very impressive; however, with overall dongle sales set in 2009 to see 15% growth over 2008 and with the traditional broadband market at a standstill, the dongle market is likely to continue to make significant in-roads into the broadband market in 2009.  With increasing choice of low cost tariffs and user numbers in the UK could easily top one million by the end of 2009.

UK Market – February 2009



Number of Users

% Share






The established leader of the dongle market, 3 has led the pack with its innovative pricing packages.





T-Mobile has used the UK as its primary test market for their dongle strategy and their innovative “webNwalk” service.





Vodafone is the fastest growing of the major networks aggressively promoting and subsidising dongles because they are viewed as a secondary device that provides additional revenues for carriers beyond a traditional handset.


O2 (Dongles only)



02 were the first major mobile network to enter the broadband market in the UK following its acquisition of Be, however, this seems to have been a distraction which has slowed their adoption of a dongle strategy.





Orange seem to stumble from drama to crisis.  Their 3G Dongle strategy is little better.  They are seeing declining share of the broadband market and have been slow to put together a competitive offering for the dongle market.


Virgin Mobile



Somewhat off the pace with their 3G dongle priced at £15 per month running over T-Mobiles network as MVNO.






To get an accurate picture, a number of published and unpublished sources have been used.  One needs to guard against the marketing hype that is put about regarding sales of individual networks, but the 3G dongle market is viewed as an area of vital importance by the mobile networks.  It will be interesting to see how the traditional ISPs respond.  Late in 2008, BT Broadband started to offer a WiFi dongle that connected to their network hotspots, BT Openzone, to their customers as an extension of their standard contract.  Neither  Sky or Tiscali have a competitive offering as yet, although Tiscali could still make a good fit for Vodafone.


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