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US Wireless Market Update Q4 2011 and 2011 March 19, 2012

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,AORTA,Applications,ARPU,BRIC,China,Connected Devices,Indian Wireless Market,LTE,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Breakfast Series,Mobile Cloud Computing,Mobile Commerce,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Mobile Future Forward,Mobile Payments,Mobile Search,Mobile Wallet,Networks,Patent Strategy,Smart Phones,US Wireless Market,Wi-Fi,WiMax,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 1 comment so far

US Wireless Market Update Q4 2011 and 2011




The US market generated $67 billion in mobile data revenues in 2011 accounting for 39% of the overall revenues for the country. The mobile data market grew 4% Q/Q and 19% Y/Y to reach $18.6B for the quarter. For the year 2012, we are forecasting that mobile data revenues in the US market will reach $80 billion.

The US market accounts for 5% of the subscriber base but 17% of the global service revenues and 21% of the global mobile data revenues. It also accounts for 40% for the global smartphone sales.

If the Martians landed on earth in early 2012, they will conclude the following: there are only 3 things certain on earth – death, taxes, and the direction of Apple’s stock price. Apple had a monster quarter with record sales of iPhone and iPad not only in the US but also around the world. Apple sold over 93M smartphones outpacing its nearest rival Samsung by a good distance. Its share of the profits is more than rest of the OEMs combined. Its stratospheric rise is legendary by any measure. Today Apple eclipsed the combined market cap of Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. Think about that for a minute. In 6-12 months, you could probably add Facebook to the equation as well. The question on rivals’ mind is when will Apple stop defying gravity. Until then, better be a fast follower.

Smartphones continued to be sold at a brisk pace accounting for 65% of the devices sold in Q4 2011. US Operators are averaging 80% of their postpaid sales as smartphones with Android dominating though iPhone leads in mindshare. The Obama administration formally placed featurephones on the endangered species list but either chamber is unlikely to pass any resolution to save it.

Nokia launched its Lumia series of devices with good acclaim however it remains to be seen if it will be able to win back the customers in big numbers in 2012.

The Post-PC Era

Ever since the iPad came into being, the chants of the post-pc mantra are getting louder. But what is it? Is it just the untethered devices? Isn’t iPad a person computer too? What about the smartphones? They have more horse power than my first few PCs combined. Is the personal computing morphing into something else or is there a clear delineation between the Mesozoic era and the new tomorrow? While we in the industry get obsessed by these minutiae, what do the real consumers think about it? Clearly, tablets are selling better than the PCs (as our previous research has shown) both in units as well as the revenue. But so did the laptops compared to the desktops.

So, does the miniaturization of a screen and improving computing power represents a big shift or is this just an evolution of personal computing. Consumers rarely think about what computing era they are in. Between the time they wake and go back to bed at night, there are a series of tasks they have to accomplish. The technology is their companion to accomplish them, from keeping calendars to creating corporate presentations to sending messages to watching TV for entertainment to socializing with family and friends.. the list seems endless. Often times, the time is too short. Technology finds a way to give the time back to us by reducing the distance between the tasks as well as compressing the duration.

As I have said before, nothing collapses time and distance like mobile. Tablets, particularly, iPad and the smartphones, if seen through the eyes of the year 2000 make us superhumans providing us capability to process several tasks in parallel. We can even direct the computing device to figure things out while we sleep. Computing is morphing into a true companion, a wily butler who just knows what’s needed next. Being untethered to a desk makes us more productive. Taking the computing evolution further – what if we can create a desktop environment wherever we are instead going to a desk. For my work setup, I have 4 or 5 screens running at the same time and it does help. It is hard to see tablets in their current incarnation competing with that task environment. However, it does allow us to collapse the desktop and take it with us.

Tablet+Network+Cloud is an enormously powerful value proposition. It should be noted that apps and services on the mobile platform are defining the desktop environment now.

For the enterprise worker, many of the day-to-day tasks don’t really need the real-estate of 3 big monitors; we can easily accomplish a lot with a smartphone or better yet the tablet. As such, we are seeing corporations de-investing in desktops and laptops and moving this investment into tablets, smartphones, apps and make their work force more nimble and competitive. This also means, apps that used to be written for Windows will be predominantly written on iOS and Android, at least for the near-term. Microsoft has a strong offering in 8 and the fact that it will work across the three screens gives it some chips to play in the new world. Whether we call it a post-pc era or the computing continuum doesn’t seem that relevant. What matters most is the set of tools that help us accomplish the tasks at hand on a daily basis. The shift is tectonic in nature, and it is creating winners and losers at an incredibly fast pace. However, my sense is that we are finally entering into the ambient computing era where the computing capability is all around us, something that Mark Weiser of Xerox PARC envisioned more than 20 years ago and something we imagined growing up with the original Star Trek.

We will be dealing with multiple connected devices which share a common identity, cloud, media, security layer, and most importantly the apps and services. The traditional PC won’t disappear but our reliance on one single machine for creation or consumption will continue to dissipate. We will have scores of radios around us, multiple objects that can think and communicate from cereal boxes to security alarms; from windows to fabric shirts; from tables to automobiles; it feels more like the connected era – where objects with brains and energy are connected to create an unprecedented universe of intelligence and productivity. This will indeed impact purchasing behavior and the commerce flow. The social and computing interactions are more intimate, have more purpose, and are available everywhere. The work-life boundaries only exist in one’s mind. A business can be started with an app on a smartphone, anywhere serving to any consumer on the planet. The impact on productivity, the shrinking human capital needed for a set of tasks, corporate and nation’s competitiveness is significant.

In many developing nations, the PC era never arrived. They jumped right into the mobile computing era. They have always lived in the post-PC era. The implications are profound.

More than anything else, the old guard is having a tough time adjusting to the new computing paradigm. HP, Dell, and others have tried but failed thus far to either launch a decent tablet or a smartphone. While Apple invented the new computing paradigm only Samsung has been able to stand up as a worthy rival. The success of a vertically integrated success strategy has seduced Microsoft and Google to the doorstep of a vertical strategy. Will they cross the chasm remains to be seen. Much depends on how Nokia performs for Microsoft and how long can Android juggernaut keeps growing for Google. Then, of course, there are Amazon and Facebook who are attacking the market from a services angle. With a strong entry of the likes of Huawei and ZTE, players caught in the middle are struggling for a viable long-term path to success.

The engagement model with the computing resources is undergoing significant evolution as well. Keyboard and mouse seem relics of a bygone era. We are falling in love with gesture computing combined with a myriad of input and intelligence techniques. Data processing at the speed of light is the new competitive advantage at all computing layers.

In every shift, winners and losers are created. The ones who fail to recognize and adapt become the relic of the historical past duly replaced by the new creators and implementers. If we look at the US household IT spend, over 50% of that spend now goes to mobile. The life time value will increase for players who can tie experiences together across multiple screens in a seamless fashion. This will enable them to not only capture the device revenue but also the commerce and services revenue built on top of it.

The battle for the consumer wallet is being fought on Apple’s turf; it is the one driving the industry narrative and the agenda for its competitors and the ecosystem at large. Am pretty sure we will stop using computer to define computing. Interesting times indeed.


In any other year, the AT&T and T-Mobile merger would have likely gone through. The interconnection of policy, politics, and private enterprise was on vivid display last year. The failure of the merger forced Deutsche Telekom to resort to the only second viable option – to take the plunge and invest in the US market. Whether 4 competitors can survive 3 years from now is still questionable. Given that DOJ and FCC have set the precedent, the only way a major M&A can take place in the US service provider segment in the near term is if one of the tier 2 operators falters Q/Q. We still believe in our thesis as outlined in our research paper “Competition and the Evolution of Mobile Markets” last year that the US market can’t support 4 large operators and we are likely to see further M&A activity in the sector before too long.

Mobile Data Growth – The Gigabyte Generation

Mobile data traffic growth continued unabated doubling again for the 8th straight year. We expect the mobile consumption to double again in 2012. Data now constitutes over 85% of the mobile traffic in the US. Approximately 30% of the smartphone users average more than 1GB/mo. As new devices and new network technology roll-out keep pace in 2012, the data traffic will grow at the expected pace. The signaling traffic is expected to grow in even faster. Stay tuned for our research paper in the Yottabyte series of papers on the topic later this year.

Mobile Patents Landscape

2011 was the most active year for mobile patents in terms of disputes. All the major players were active in filing and protecting their turf for the future battles. IBM topped the industry in the most number of mobile patents granted in 2011 in the US followed by Samsung and Microsoft. The rest of the top 10 in order included Sony, Qualcomm, LG, Ericsson, Panasonic, Broadcom and RIM. Of the major players, Nokia occupied #12, Intel #13, Apple #16, Motorola #21, and Google #23 spot in the top 50 ranking. Amongst the mobile operators, Sprint was the leader with 323 patents granted in 2011. We have more research coming out later in the year that shows the relative patent strength of the various mobile players.

Connected Universe, Monetizing Opportunities

While 2011 was the year of figuring what the opportunities are in the new connected era, 2012 is starting to focus on how to monetize those opportunities. That will be the theme of our Mobile Future Forward Thought-leadership summit in Sept. More details to come. Almost all the vertical industries are benefiting from the connected devices and ubiquity of broadband networks – security, health, retail, utility, transportation, entertainment, and others. We will take a deep dive into the issues, the best case studies, the opportunities, and the players.

What to expect in the coming months?

All this has setup an absolutely fascinating 2012 in the communication/computing industry. Convergence is everywhere and is leading to a fundamental reset of the value chains and ecosystems.

As usual, we will be keeping a very close eye on the micro- and macro-trends and reporting on the market on a regular basis in various private and public settings.

Against this backdrop, the analysis of the Q4 2011 and full year 2011 US wireless data market is:

Service Revenues



Applications and Services


Mobile Data Growth

Global Update

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, twitter feeds, future research reports, and articles. The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in May 2012. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in Apr 2012.

Disclaimer: Some of the companies mentioned in this paper are our clients.

Mobile Internet 3.0: How Operators Can Become Service Innovators and Drive Profitability February 23, 2012

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,ARPU,BRIC,Carriers,China,Connected Devices,Devices,Enterprise Mobility,European Wireless Market,Mobile Cloud Computing,Mobile Health,Security,Smart Phones,US Wireless Market,Wi-Fi,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 1 comment so far


Mobile Internet 3.0

How Operators Can Become Service Innovators and Drive Profitability

Sponsored by Juniper Networks

Download PDF

The mobile ecosystem is going through significant shifts in consumer behavior, the value-chain alignment, and the strategies required in managing the profitability of the service business. Operators around the world are experiencing tremendous mobile data growth. While the mobile data revenues are increasing, the margins are decreasing for many operators. As the percentage of the smartphones on the network increases, the data business is primarily becoming an access business which is difficult to sustain over the long-haul.

Additionally, it is becoming clear that the long-term value will be in the portfolio of value-added services (VAS). As we slowly migrate into the Mobile Internet 3.0 world where mobile data becomes the primary source of service revenues, operators have a fundamental choice to make – either learn to live with the utility business that pushes the margins downwards by 30-50% or selectively compete and/or collaborate with the OTT (over the top) players where they can offer compelling solutions and packages to their customer base and beyond.

Operators who are fully able to grasp the changes occurring in the ecosystem and are willing to refocus will position themselves for higher profitability in the coming years.

A fundamental rethink of the network and the business models is required. Rather than leaving all the VAS business to others, operators should look at ways to launch new services, to micro-segmented consumer base, to enable APIs and services that the developer ecosystem can build on, and to look at the core network to enable incremental revenue streams.

The pace at which the new services are launched needs to accelerate and the marginal cost of the introduction needs to go down significantly. By architecting the “network as a platform,” operators will have more flexibility in deploying an open and programmable network that not only provides operational efficiencies and insights but also paves the way for new generation of services such as mobile cloud, mobile security, health care, and identity management.

The paper looks at the global trends in mobile data and the need for new approaches to operator services that can help increase the mobile data margins and help operators play a more decisive and enabling role in the mobile ecosystem. The paper provides an operator blueprint for succeeding in the Mobile Internet 3.0 era by discussing the operating principles and the long tail of VAS. Several strategies and application areas are analyzed that can help operators in building a viable VAS strategy and sustainable profit streams.

We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, twitter feeds, future research reports, and articles. The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in Mar 2012. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in Apr 2012.

Disclaimer: Some of the companies mentioned in this paper are our clients.

A Tale of Two Mobile Markets – China and India February 22, 2012

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,AORTA,Applications,BRIC,China,Indian Wireless Market,Intellectual Property,International Trade,IP,US Wireless Market,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , add a comment




Next weekend, on March 3rd around noon China Standard Time to be precise, China will sign up its one billionth mobile subscription. India in the meantime, crossed the 900 million subscription mark in Feb. Roughly an year ago, India was adding subscribers at historically record pace of approximately 20 million subscriptions per month (that translates into a new Australian market every month) while China continued at its steady pace of 8-12 million net-adds per month. In Q1 2011, data indicated India might actually edge out China to reach the first billion landmark. Then, the market collapsed due to the intense competition, the pervasive corruption, and the accounting gimmicks.

In 2011, the global GDP growth was 2.7% according to the World Bank. While the OECD countries saw only modest gains (1.7%), China (9.1%) and India (6.5%) accounted for a good percentage of the global growth. Buoyed by the rising disposable income, the middle class in the two biggest countries are spending more than ever before.

All of the top 6 global operators by subscriptions are from China and India. Collectively, they account for 27% of the global mobile subscriptions and 12% of the global service revenues. In 2011, India added 141 million subscriptions while China netted 133 million.

Having worked in both of these markets over the last decade, I have always seen China and India as two of the most dynamic mobile markets in the world. They might seem similar on surface but are quite different underneath. Both represent vast human resources and the biggest middle class with buying power. However, their competitive landscape is vastly different. On our Competitive Index (CI) scale of global markets, they are on the extreme ends of the revenue and subscriber concentration indices. China is one of the least competitive mobile markets and India is by far the most competitive mobile market in the world.

In China, China Mobile monopolizes the market with over 66% of the market. Regulators are trying to boost the other two operators China Unicom and China Telecom but have a lot of work left on their plate. India on the other hand is a hot cauldron of intense competition, too much competition if you ask the operators. There are 5 operators with roughly 100 million or more subscriptions with the Bharti Airtel at number 1 but with less than 20% market share.

China’s mobile journey began in the early nineties with the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications providing the telecom services as China Telecom. In 1994, under pressure, China Unicom was introduced to the market but was largely a failure. Later in 1999, China Telecom was split into three businesses with China Mobile becoming the mobile arm. Recently, when the 3G licenses were granted, market was segmented into its current form with China Mobile still leading the pack by a good distance.

China’s overall growth for the past decade has been pretty steady staying between 8-12 million net-adds per month. Remarkably, the ARPU has stayed fairly consistent at around $10. Data revenue started growing significantly in the last 3-4 years. China Mobile has been the number one operator by the number of subscriptions, the total revenue, and the market cap for many years now (it is more valuable than Google). In data revenues, China Mobile has consistently ranked in the top 5 for the last 5 years.

India started its mobile journey late towards the end of the last decade but after a series of market reforms and introduction of new players like Reliance in early 2000s, market caught fire. The lack of landline infrastructure, the declining $/min costs aided by the burgeoning middle class meant the market was ripe for explosive expansion. In 2005, India was roughly 300 million subscriptions behind China but its per month net-adds has been inching up steadily and by Q2 2007, India caught up with China in net-adds.

While China’s mobile market growth continued at a steady pace, the Indian market leaped into high gear, breaking records month-after-month and came tantalizingly close to China in Q2 2011 with only 55 million separating the two at the time. However, by then, the market retreat had already started. As we outlined in our Competition and Evolution of Mobile Markets research paper last year, the market composition and the intense competitive landscape was unsustainable. The cost to acquire a new subscriber started to become unbearably high. The rapid customer acquisition at any cost started to have a significant impact on operator profitability.

Also, the heavy burden of regulatory levies meant that the regulatory charges are approximately 20-25% in India whereas in China they are negligible. This meant, virtually all the operators started veering towards the dangerous negative margin territory in 2011-12. Additionally, the pervasive corruption reared its ugly head and a number of key players got caught up in the spectrum auction scandal. The bottom line is that the market is going to stay in the state of “mess” for the next few quarters as it tries to clean things up and plan the next phase of growth and momentum. It can take solace from the fact that the open free market and legal framework is still attractive to the mobile ecosystem. The fact that Vodafone won the $2 billion tax case should inspire confidence in the market.

Not surprisingly, the intense competition had a significant toll on the overall ARPU in India. While China’s ARPU stayed constant at $10 for much of the decade and its data % increased to 27% in 2011, India’s ARPU plummeted from $11 in 2005 to $3 in 2011. Players like Reliance boast a subscriber base of 150 million but the ARPU is < $2 leading to a meager 3.7% profit margin. However, many of the Indian operators are a part of the big conglomerates so it is easier to absorb and hide the declining financials. Regulators must realize that the industry can stay healthy only if its players remain financially viable. One has to look at mobile growth holistically. They must abolish outdates policies, rationalize the exorbitant levies, liberalize the market further and outline long-term spectrum policy without delay.

It is fairly easy to be fooled and seduced by the large numbers. However, these markets are not for the faint hearted. After the pleasantries are over, the unsuspecting and the unprepared will get chewed and spat out in no time. The feeble IP regimes make it even more problematic. But, it is 37% of humanity we are talking about. Markets are still attractive but one needs a strategic focus, strong local partners, and iron clad teeth to take a bite of these markets. Even established players can exhibit extreme naiveté in understanding the rules of the game.

Regulators in both markets face key decisions on a number of vectors – 4G spectrum, competition, FDI, IP, broadband plan, and policies on a number of fronts. Both countries have similar long-term goals but are inefficient in terms of regulations and capital allocation (they are not unique in this respect, even more advanced markets like the US have their share of quirks in the regulatory framework) needed for the next phase of market and revenue growth.

India is likely to cross its billionth mark by early 2013. The market will go through significant restructuring and self-correction over the course of next two years. China will look to expand its 3G and 4G markets and bring broadband to the masses. The smartphone and data usage is on the rise laying the foundation for the future transformation.

China has been the bolder of the two. By deft coordination and shrewd strategy, the likes of Huawei and ZTE have shaken its western rivals in their boots while protecting its local turf. India has been content with the services business though it is starting to ramp up its manufacturing and R&D capabilities. Indian operators have had better success at spreading their wings, investing in foreign markets and collaborating with foreign operators. China is somewhat closed but disciplined. India is mostly open but waffling.

In the last ten years, China has become the 2nd largest economy in the world behind the US while India will edge past Japan to become #3. Given that mobile will have a central role in the ICT evolution of global markets particularly in the developing nations, what happens in the mobile markets of China and India will influence rest of the world. (I just finished up a project for UN in this area, more to come).

So, congratulations to China for the significant milestone and to India for its tremendous growth.

The future of mobile data applications and services in China and India is extremely bright albeit tortuous.

Tighten your seatbelts and enjoy the journey.

Your comments are always welcome.