EDGE-enabled handsets have never attracted the same levels of attention that "sexier" technologies such as WCDMA and HSDPA have enjoyed. In fact EDGE can best be described as the Cinderella of the cellular handset world. However, recent forecasts from ABI Research indicate that the worldwide EDGE handset market will reach 148 million shipments in 2006, representing 14% of the total mobile phone market.
Principal analyst Stuart Carlaw points out that, "EDGE is downplayed in the market because it cannot really provide a mobile broadband experience and is therefore not seen as being at the cutting edge of cellular handset evolution; it is viewed purely as an evolutionary step on the GSM ladder, and industry attention is very much focused on the newer technologies such as W-CDMA and HSDPA. That view is further compounded by the fact that operators do not actively report EDGE numbers in the public domain."
"However," adds research director Jake Saunders, "This lack of general market attention belies the real importance of the role EDGE plays in delivering mobile services today and will play in the effective delivery of content in the network of tomorrow."
Apart from the sheer volume of EDGE handsets, the ABI Research analysts believe that the industry as a whole should pay more attention to this market because EDGE is the only choice for some carriers today to support any type of near-acceptable mobile broadband experience, especially those with no 3G licenses or those waiting for 4G. Carlaw adds, "When the prospects for EDGE are viewed in the context of next generation networks, its true value comes to light. The technology still represents the only viable choice for supporting seamless service delivery on a very wide area basis. Neither WiMAX nor LTE nor HSUPA will be rolled out with enough geographic coverage to guarantee minimum service requirements on a wide scale."
ABI Research's Mobile Devices Research Service explores (among many other subjects) the market position for EDGE and the vendor ecosystem around it. It includes research reports, regular market updates, forecast and industry databases, ABI Insights, and analyst inquiry support.
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