Optimistic forecasts fuel wireless hype

There could be 1.3 billion subscribers to third-generation (3G) wireless networks in 2010. That's the optimistic case in one market research forecast.

Or there could be only 744 million 3G subscribers in 2010. That's the pessimistic view.

Or there could be far fewer than that. Third-generation networks haven't been built yet, there are zero subscribers now, and it isn't clear when the 3G market will take off, let alone what it will be like nine years hence.

In cases like this, "researchers are pulling their numbers out of thin air," said Paul Mulligan, who analyzes dozens of wireless IT forecasts at research aggregator eMarketer Inc. in New York.

It's one thing to extrapolate growth rates for a technology that has an installed base of users, Mulligan said. But "now we have researchers projecting things that don't even exist yet, like 3G services," he said. "They might as well be telling us how many people will drive wheelless cars in 2007."

The problem is that wishful forecasts can mislead business decision-makers. A CEO reading an airline magazine full of rosy predictions could put pressure on an IT executive to dive into the hyped technology. "That happens all the time, and the IT manager is put in an impossible situation," Mulligan said.

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This story, "Optimistic forecasts fuel wireless hype" was originally published by Computerworld.

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