Is mobile broadband a sham?

I have a special filing cabinet for all the press releases I receive highlighting a statistic or survey that rather conveniently favors a particular product or brand: it’s called the trash can.

But every once in a while, however opportunistic, they can raise an interesting point as is the case with today’s punt from the price comparison site BroadBand Expert, entitled: “UK consumers fall out of love with mobile broadband as sales plummet”.

Claiming to be the UK’s number one comparison site for mobile broadband, the company’s own figures show a 57 percent fall in the number of people signing up for mobile broadband (the 3G dongle kind) via the site in the last 12 months. That said, the sample isn’t massive; sales have “crashed” from approximately 3,000 in May 2009 to 1,300 in May 2010, according to the release, using data from web analytics firm Hitwise based on searches for mobile broadband to support this trend.

The reason – and it’s a familiar one – the technology hasn’t lived up to the hype.

“Mobile broadband experienced phenomenal growth in the UK as consumers expected all the benefits of a home broadband connection whilst on the move”, says Rob Webber, Broadband Expert’s commercial director.

He goes on to say: “We receive a huge amount of feedback from customers complaining of inconsistent or non-existent connections and speeds comparable to dial-up or worse.”

Webber makes it sound like WAP (“wait and pray”) all over again.

But is he right, is mobile broadband a sham?

And if so, what about all of those iPads with built-in 3G.

Alternatively, could it be that mobile broadband did so well in take up that the market is saturated. Everybody who needs it, has it?

Another possibility is that the proliferation of the smartphone and associated data plan, makes a 3G dongle a bit niche.

And what about public WiFi? Its availability has certainly increased over the last 12 months – Starbucks loyalty card and all. I regularly use a netbook outside of home but not via a dongle.

All is not lost, however.

Sales of mobile broadband will ignite once again thanks to the roll out of 4G (LTE) network in 12-18 months time, says Broadband Expert.

How convenient.