**As published in RCR Wireless News** SEATTLE — Mobile broadband usage has grown an astounding 5,000% over the last three years on AT&T Mobility’s network, Fred Devereaux, the carrier’s president for the western region, said this morning at Mobile Future Forward. Meanwhile, the carrier is preparing for mobile broadband connectivity to leap 40% to 60% during the next five years, he said.
No doubt, much of that growth is coming from apps, an area where the United States handily eclipses the rest of the world. In 2009, more than 833 million apps were downloaded in the United States, according to data from Strategy Analytics that Devereaux provided during his keynote. Japan, the next closest app-happy country, captured 642 million app downloads. China hit 296 million app downloads last year while South Korea hit 149 million and Germany rounded out the top five countries with 146 million app downloads. Devereaux also talked about AT&T’s emerging devices organization, which is responsible for driving AT&T’s growth on connected devices and in the machine-to-machine space. At a lab in Austin, Texas, AT&T tests and approves a whole range of these emerging devices, ranging from e-readers to netbooks and tablets. To make its terms more flexible for partners that distribute and sell these devices, AT&T is striking unique, custom deals with each, he said. While Devereaux declined to give details about how much money AT&T makes on M2M and connected devices, he said, “we’re OK with low ARPU because the volume is so great.” Apple and Android momentum “It’s amazing how many people have $200 for a smart phone. It doesn’t seem to let up,” Devereaux said. “People are not buying basic phones anymore. It’s changing very quickly.” Much of that shift is due to the wild popularity of Apple Inc.’s iPhone and the increasing momentum of devices powered by Google’s Android operating system. While he called BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion Ltd.’s Torch, “the best BlackBerry ever,” Devereaux said, “I’m surprised there hasn’t been a faster adoption of it.” He added, “we see tremendous momentum in Android.” He didn’t address it in direct terms, but there’s no mistaking the fact that RIM’s sluggish sales of the Torch are directly correlated to the growing momentum of Android and iOS.