CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment Roundup 2009 October 12, 2009

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CTIA San Diego Roundup

San Diego is a casual town so this year’s CTIA fit nicely with an equally casual show, that felt more like a networking party sprinkled with some striking keynotes and engaging sessions. However, the biggest tremors were felt a day before the event started with Verizon getting in bed with Google and AT&T embracing VoIP with open arms. FCC’s curiosity into the wireless world has yielded more action in 3 months than many years combined before. I was drawn more to the policy debate and the implications to the wireless industry in the US and to the rest of the world. There was intense discussion on appstores and their place in the future, mobile advertising and its maturity, enhancing retail experience, accelerated growth in mobile health in recent times, and of course the tremendous growth in the US wireless data market but if you already knew that. This note summarizes the observations and opinions from the event, discussions, and briefings.

A friend of mine at the FCC invited me to the FCC Broadband Field Hearing occurring simultaneously with the CTIA at the University of San Diego. I am glad I went. The first panel was on the App Ecosystem with a diverse panel of industry verticals – rural, public safety, health care, environment, air quality, health care complimented by the discussion of the iPhone and its impact on the mobile industry. Chairman Julius Genachowski is to iPhone what President Obama was to Blackberry. He described his love for the apps with tender affection.

I am finding that the whole process of broadband planning to be quite interesting. The proceedings have been open and participatory, interest and feedback has been intense, and the principles have been clearly stated. This helped with a broader question that my CTO team for the FiREGlobal panel (to be held on Oct 15th) is addressing. We are tasked with a unique challenge of coming up with technology solutions for better civic discourse and our team consists of experts in the public and private enterprise to give a set of recommendations. We are currently under intense discussions and will unveil our suggestions on thursday. Stay Tuned.

Coming back to the FCC talk, Julius described four key principles:

  1. Most importantly he described the spectrum shortage as a looming crisis and that additional spectrum capacity is needed to handle the demand of data traffic from data cards and smartphones (something we have illustrated in detail in our paper – "Managing growth and profits in the Yottabyte era")
  2. Removing red tape to allow wireless carriers to build their network faster, for example, the work with cell towers
  3. Codify and enforce net-neutrality policies
  4. Operate more openly

While 1) and 2) have been discussed in the industry for some time, it is the mention of 3) and 4) that has changed industry in more ways than one. AT&T’s Ralph de la Vega took the stage after the Chairman and gave a spirited defense of the industry that requires no regulation. Frankly, the mere mention of the word "open" has had quite an impact on the industry in last 3 months. (I will be moderating two panels at the upcoming Open Mobile Summit on "What open means to apps providers" and "Apps in the cloud" in Nov, 2009)

Of course, as always, it is from the details that the devil flexes it muscles. How FCC will end up defining "open," "net neutrality," "network management" and other key items will determine the course of the industry. I wrote a piece that appeared in RCR Wireless “Defining Mobile Broadband” that outlined some of the same principles but from an operator strategy point of view suggested a much broader strategic imperative of building intelligent platform to survive long-term. The recommendations we made in our Yottabyte paper are being adopted and discussed much more openly since it was released in July. Due to significant interest, we will some follow-up research on the topic in the coming days, so stay tuned. I will be giving a ISACA luncheon keynote on the topic on Oct 20th. Of course, our Mobile Breakfast Series panel on mobile broadband will delve into the details of the broadband ecosystem on Dec 4th. Be sure to register.


Each year our small community in Issaquah, WA celebrates a festival “Salmon Days.” As I was strolling around the hatchery, it helped me prepare for my talk on the Appstore ecosystem. The fish traveling upstream has several parallels to the developers trying to make in the 80,000 db appond. So, I focused my talk on how the ecosystem needs to come together urgently to build the fish ladder to give more developers a chance to make it to the next level to create a vibrant and sustainable ecosystem. While Microsoft’s mobile strategy is disarray right now, they are one of the few companies who understand the caring and feeding of the developer ecosystem (another one is Ebay). If the ecosystem focuses primarily on their profits and margins, the rich ecosystem might be at a risk of collapsing.

I discussed several factors that can help foster a healthier ecosystem starting with fish ladder. If you are interested in the presentation, please drop me a line. There was pretty good discussion from some experienced and successful developers. The emergence of appstore mania has been a double-edged sword. Developers are back in demand but their attention is finite and they are forced to allocate resources accordingly. I was also surprised to find out about the level of piracy and counterfeit goods in the appstore and how little is being done to protect legitimate developers. Some of the ladder factors I discussed were: greater revenue share, connection with investors, iTunes and carrier billing, location and presence, user profile and context, reports and analytics, $0 signup and certification, better search and discovery, social interaction and virality, flexible payment and billing models, better networks and devices, reduced fragmentation, more open APIs and marketing dollars. If you are interested, drop me a line and I will send you the ppt.


I also had a chance to moderate a panel on Mobile Advertising and the current state of affairs. While mobile advertising is the only advertising sector that has shown growth this year, it is not breaking out to stand on its own. Large media companies are primarily looking mobile as a complimentary channel though they are clearly enamored by its potential. Lack of clear, uniform, auditable metrics is another issue though various industry bodies have been working together and some guidelines are expected to be released next quarter.

Overall, the show felt like a sponsored networking party with hardly any new announcements, the show floor was easier on the feet, the attendance was down again. However, the hallway conversations and running into friends and colleagues from the distant past is always priceless. The only newsworthy highlight for me was the emergence of mobile healthcare and mobile retail as separate categories at CTIA. There is clearly much potential and interest in these areas. We will have more on these topics in the coming months.

Some of the news worth items were:

It was great catching-up with friends and colleagues. Looking forward to the next one.

Introducing "Managing Growth and Profits in the Yottabyte Era" July 10, 2009

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,AORTA,ARPU,Carriers,Devices,European Wireless Market,Indian Wireless Market,Japan Wireless Market,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Speaking Engagements,Worldwide Wireless Market , 2 comments

Yesterday at the TiE Seattle keynote, I introduced some research from my upcoming paper “Managing Growth and Profits in the Yottabyte Era.” See coverage here.

I will be releasing the paper next week. In the meantime, here is the Introduction

In Q1 2009, the US market exceeded $10B in quarterly mobile data service revenues for the first time.[1] The subscription penetration in the US is well past 90% and the mobile data usage is on the rise. While the rate of new subscriptions has slowed, the pace of innovation is going very strong. It is quite apparent that the mobile industry is going through a significant transition from voice to data, from making calls to getting lost in applications and from voice communications to multimedia communications. Helped by the ever expanding wireless broadband networks, and release of hit devices every quarter, and consumer’s insatiable appetite for information and content has brought us to the surge of a data tsunami that will shake the industry to its core.

As everything moves digital, information repositories across the web is almost doubling every day. The information and the desire and the capability to consume oodles of data is increasing exponentially. As a result the traffic – both Wireline and wireless is also increasing at a predictably fast rate.

In 2009, the global yearly mobile data traffic will reach a new milestone – 1 Exabyte (EB) or 1 Million Terabytes (TB). [2] By 2016-17, the global yearly mobile data traffic is likely to exceed 1 Zettabyte (ZB) or 1000 Exabytes. By 2014, in the US alone, the total yearly mobile data traffic is likely to exceed 40 EB. How do you go about managing such growth in a profitable manner when the cost of supporting such traffic will increase exponentially despite the move to 4G?[3] Will the move to LTE offer some respite?

This paper discusses the analysis done by Chetan Sharma Consulting on the growth of mobile data traffic in the US market and how the ecosystem can apply some strategies to manage growth and profits. We built detailed models to estimate the rise of mobile data network traffic and discuss some solutions to handle such growth in this paper.

[1] Source: US Wireless Data Market update Q1 2009, Chetan Sharma Consulting. It was also the first time any nation exceeded the $10B mark in a quarter for mobile data revenues.

[2] For reference, 1 TB = 1012 bytes, 1 PB = 1015 bytes, 1 EB = 1018 bytes, 1 ZB = 1021 bytes, 1 YB = 1024 bytes

[3] For the purposes of this paper, we consider LTE as a 4G technology though it hasn’t been officially designated as such. For more discussion on 4G, please see 4G: The State of the Union, Chetan Sharma, GigaOM, 2009

US Wireless Data Market Update – Q1 2009 May 11, 2009

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,AORTA,ARPU,BRIC,Carriers,CTIA,Devices,Enterprise Mobility,European Wireless Market,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Mobile Gaming,Mobile Search,Mobile TV,Mobile Usability,Mobile Users,Networks,Speaking Engagements,US Wireless Market,Wi-Fi,WiMax,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 4 comments

US Wireless Data Market Update – Q1 2009

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Executive Summary

The US wireless data market grew 5% Q/Q and 32% from Q108 to reach $10B in mobile data service revenues. It marked the first time the US market has crossed the $10B milestone. Given the strong growth in data revenues shown by the top carriers and the increase in service revenues overall, it appears that at least for the time being that the worst is over for the mobile industry. In summary, the recession has been all but a tiny blip (from the service revenue perspective) in its growth trend and the US mobile market has weathered the downward spiral in economy better than its counterparts in other developing nations.

The US subscription penetration went passed 90%. While the flailing economy hit certain segments of the wireless ecosystem hard esp. the infrastructure and handset segments, consumers haven’t really pulled back on the mobile data overall spending. Additionally, the CAPEX spending will stay strong in 2009 given the activity around 3G/4G deployments and trials. As expected, the data card subscriptions were hit the hardest and there was an increase of prepaid subscribers which dropped the overall revenues for some of the carriers.

As we mentioned in our last research note that this time around, the fate of the US mobile industry is more closely tied to the overall economy compared to the previous recessions. As the consumer sentiment improved over the last couple of months along with better than expected Q1 2009 earnings from corporations, the mobile industry seems to be back on track. While the structural flaws in various industry segments remain, and the economy is a crisis away from the double dip, the outlook for the remainder of 2009 remains bright and we are expecting the overall data revenues to now increase by 24% compared to 2008.

US Wireless Industry in Recession – The light at the end of the tunnel might not be of the oncoming train

Note: For a detailed discussion of the US wireless industry in recessions, please see 2008 US Wireless Market Update.

The % GDP change dropped from 4.8% in 2007 to 2.3% in 2008. Q4 2008 reported a drop by 6.2% QoQ in one of the sharpest declines in the last quarter century. Q1 2009 reported a 6.1% decline. On an yearly basis, the GDP is expected to change by 3.2% for 2009 and the service revenues are expected to  account for 1.13% of the US economy by year-end.

As mentioned in the previous report, while in the past, the recession hardly impacted the wireless industry, this time around; it is going to be more tied to the recession. In the past couple of months, the consumer sentiment has improved and the Q109 earnings have been better than expected. While there are still many structural flaws in the financial and housing industries and the unemployment is at a 25 year high of 8.9%, consumers are feeling better about the economy and their own prospects in it. Most companies are being optimistic but cautious.

So, what does this mean? Well, the markets can still be volatile, but overall the market seems to be feeling better about the economy than it was in February. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index experienced a significant jump to 39 (relative scale of 100) from being at an all-time low of 25 in February.

Given that consumer sentiment is improving, it appears that US mobile data market is all but back from the recession. While some segments within the mobile industry might be suffering, there has been an increase in spending overall.

What to expect in the coming months?

We noted in our Q3 2008 note that we will get a better picture of the impact of the recession on the wireless industry in Q109 as it was the first full quarter after the seasonal holiday quarter. There are two micro trends that are clear. First, as expected, due to the high unemployment, the data card segment took a hit. It will recover in due course as more of the workforce comes back over in the next 18 months.

Also, as expected, there was a shift from postpaid to prepaid in some user segments. For example, for T-Mobile, prepaid constituted 61% of the net-adds in Q109 up from 57% in Q408 and 25% in Q108. It is not clear if the good times will bring back the prepaid subscribers to the postpaid realm or like the consumers who are canceling their landline connections and moving to mobile, these customers will get used to savings and the prepaid lifestyle.

It is quite likely that 50-60% of such consumers don’t go back to postpaid thus permanently lowering the ARPU base for such customers and carriers who have experienced more postpaid to prepaid shift will have to make up for the lost revenues someplace else (or maybe they can hire Oprah to send a tweet to her followers to upgrade to Postpaid. It will crash the system but increase the ARPU).

Rising unemployment continues to accelerate another trend – landline replacement by Mobile which reached almost 22% by Q109 (of course this benefits the mobile industry). This trend is irreversible and requires fresh thinking.

Messaging continues to grow. The messaging volume jumped 27% and messaging revenue was up 7% QoQ. The data access (excluding data card) including flat rate data plan subscriptions have also show significant strength lately. In addition to smartphones, we are also seeing increased mobile data activity amongst feature phone users.

The positive factors are helping negate the negative factors and given the strength of 3G and smartphone adoption, the increase in activity on the appstores front, and in general, a better awareness of mobile data services and applications amongst consumers, any decline due to the loss of data card revenue and postpaid transition to prepaid accounts has been taken care off. In particular, Verizon and AT&T have done really well. Smartphones remain a bright spot, which in turn has a direct positive impact on the data revenues. Even with the decline in handset sales, smartphone segment will continue to increase in 2009 accounting for almost 30% of the overall device shipments.

We are likely to see continued price and margin pressure on subscription plans and as a result, voice ARPU will continue its downward trend and data ARPU will become a more prominent factor of the ARPU mix by the end of 2009 reaching over 30% of the service revenues.

This will lead to new business and pricing models for e.g. some will find the low flat rate pricing untenable in the long-run without a fundamental rethink of the network and business architecture.

Coming back to the 2009 forecasts, we are raising our estimates for the mobile data service revenues to $42B for the year. 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 Q109 US wireless data market is:

Service Revenues (Slides 11, 18)

ARPU (Slides 12-15)

Subscribers (Slides 16-17)

Applications and Services



We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, future research reports, and articles. The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in Aug 2009. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in Sept 2009.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Should you have any questions about navigating or understanding the economic and competitive icebergs, please feel free to drop us a line.


Chetan Sharma

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

NAB recap – Open, Personalization, Advertising April 26, 2009

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,AORTA,ARPU,BRIC,Carriers,Devices,European Wireless Market,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Privacy,Speaking Engagements,Strategy,WiMax,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 1 comment so far

Last week, I was invited to present and moderate at the biggest Broadcaster’s show – the NABSHOW in Las Vegas. Compared to CTIA, the show was almost double with registered attendees exceeding 83K. For me, it was a day trip. I was involved with the Mobile Entertainment Summit being held on the 22nd.



The day started with the keynote from Matt Oomen, VP of Product and Technology development at Sprint Nextel. He laid the foundation for the day’s discussion with some overarching themes of Open Platforms, Open Devices, Social Networking, Personalization, and Broadband capabilities of the mobile industry. There were a number of great panels discussing the growth in the mobile video and applications space with panelists from all across the value chain. The bottom-line:

Next up were two of my panels. First one was on Mobile Trends being jointly presented with Brian Jurutka, VP Comscore. The session was moderated by Jay Frank, SVP, CMT. Brian presented some really interesting data on mobile video in the US market. A good number of video downloads are happening sideloaded and overall usage remains low.


Another interesting tidbit was for 3G vs. non-3G users


And while iPhone helped change the ecosystem, video usage looks quite similar to G1. Another interesting data point was that the video consumption tapers off with time for users meaning that content providers need to keep users engaged with different strategies.

I presented data on the overall US market and how that is evolving and ended up some observations and recommendations.


Next up was my panel discussion on how Mobile Innovations will impact Mobile Entertainment Experiences. I had the honor of moderating four very clued-in folks


Rebecca Hanson, VP, Strategic Initiatives, Sprint. She has been behind the WiMAX launch

Sajal Sahay, Director, Product Marketing, T-Mobile USA. He has been behind the Android G1 launch

Tim Chang, Principal, Norwest Venture Partners. He has been involved in the mobile industry for over 10 years as an investor and sits on several technology company boards and is very active in discussing emerging trends

and Raj Ray, Director, VAS, Qualcomm. He has been behind developing the VAS business for Qualcomm globally, esp. in the emerging economies

Salient points of our discussion:

Overall a great show. I noticed that even Google had a booth (was absent at CTIA). Something to put on the calendar for next year. My thanks to Michael and Zahava for inviting me to participate.

My next events are at:

TiECON – May 16th – Mobile Monetization

Future in Review – May 20th – Future of Mobile Broadband

mHealth – May 22nd

Hope to see some of you there

CTIA 2009 Roundup April 6, 2009

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,AORTA,ARPU,BRIC,Carriers,CTIA,Devices,European Wireless Market,Indian Wireless Market,International Trade,IP,Japan Wireless Market,Location Based Services,Mergers and Acquisitions,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Mobile Gaming,Mobile Search,Mobile TV,Mobile Usability,Speaking Engagements,Strategy,Unified Messaging,US Wireless Market,Wi-Fi,WiMax,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 1 comment so far

CTIA 2009 Roundup


CTIA 2009 in Pictures


CTIA provided a boost to the Las Vegas economy by hosting the 2009 International CTIA in the sin city. Prior to the show, we knew that the attendance will be down due to the economy and it was clear from day 1 that it will be a less busy event. Attendance was probably down 30-40%, Exhibitors seemed down by a good percentage as well with many opting for meeting rooms instead or skipping the show altogether. The big double story compounds were downgraded to smaller fields. Samsung and LG didn’t plaster the town with massive banners, taxis weren’t covered in advertisements. It was not all bad though, the probability of being trampled by humans reduced, taxi lines were shorter (though no less annoying) and the quality of the show was still pretty good. We had a jam packed schedule. This note summarizes the observations from the show.

Numbers CTIA released its semi-annual numbers. For 2008: 270M subscribers, $148 billion in service revenues, $32 billion in data revenues (just for reference, this is more than the total global Hollywood box-office revenue which came in at $28B), 2.2 trillion in MOU, 1 trillion TXT messages. You can checkout our annual US data market analysis which was released last month here.

Etech Contest – Prior to the event, CTIA invited us to judge the Emerging Technology Contest. It was fun reviewing the various entries. The award winners are announced here. Congrats to all.

My CTIA started early with a couple of sessions at the pre-conference event – BRIC Mobile Market Summit. The quality of the discussion was pretty good. I gave a talk on the Opportunities in the Indian and Chinese mobile markets and discussed where the opportunities in these two fastest growing markets as well as dispel some myths that engulf most companies.

After that, I joined the panel with other experts in the industry to have a lengthy discussion of the trends and opportunities in these markets including Latin America.

Unfortunately, our workshop on “Monetizing Mobile User Generated Content” got canceled due to low attendance or maybe folks are just not interested in monetizing these days. I will be discussing some of the similar themes in my talk at the NAB Show (MES) in Vegas on 22nd April. I will also be moderating a panel on Innovations in Mobile Experiences.

If interested, clients of Chetan Sharma Consulting can request the slides from any of the talks.

Themes: The main themes of the conference were: Broadband (primarily around 4G and LTE with sprinkles of WiMAX) and data usage, Green, Mobile Health, Appstores, Rich Communication and Social Networking.


4G – My first 4G project was back in 2003 for NTT DoCoMo when 4G didn’t even enter industry’s vernacular. Most operators were figuring out their 3G strategies. Six years hence, we have come a long way. Broadband, 4G, and LTE were the core themes of the conference and there was visible progress from the last CTIA with more test results, actual devices, and real demos. While the current reports suggest that some form of deployment will take place in 2010, we don’t expect the “real” commercial deployments before 2011, LTE voice will even take longer. So, where does this leave WiMAX. With each passing day, the role of WiMAX as a niche technology is affirmed. The backhaul bottleneck problem is also becoming prominent and the enhancement of backhaul is behind the RF infrastructure to provide any substantive improvements in data throughputs at least in the near future.

I will be moderating a panel on 4G at Future in Review (FiRE) conference considered by Economist the best Tech conference on the planet (panelists include executives from Telstra, Qualcomm, Clearwire, and others) to get delve deeper into the evolution of 4G.

The Broadband Stimulus – Many companies are eying the $8B broadband stimulus package. The process of how they are going to be granted seems chaotic with unintended consequences. My feeling is that it is a lost opportunity. Instead of just looking at incremental enhancements, US could have been bold and improved existing and new broadband deployments by over 50-60 times.  (More discussion here)

Mobile Health

Keynotes – I thought Dr. Eric Topol, Director, Scripps gave perhaps the most effective keynote addresses in recent memory. Keynotes are generally a drab affair. Instead of inspiring through vision many put the audience to sleep with their product announcements. Dr. Topol’s speech was so rich in content, his words were filled with such passion, and his articulation was so inspiring that most entrepreneurs in the room were energized to make a difference. I commend CTIA for inviting him. He is joining Qualcomm’s Don Jones (a fierce proponent of mHealth) and others to form the first ever Wireless Health Institute in San Diego. Expect some really cool stuff to come out of them. However, to be most effective, health institutions need to get on board with the program starting with the simplest of things like “txt messages.” Come on folks, move into the 21st century!

Health – For the first time, there was significant discussion on mobile’s impact on the health care industry. My masters is in Biomedical Engineering so it is great to see the marriage between the two industries. I strongly believe if we can get past some of the bureaucratic nonsense, mobile can have a significant lasting impact on the quality of life and healthcare in both the developing and developed nations. Some of the stuff is really amazing (iBrain, iPill, iShoe, you get the picture). I will have more discussion on the subject in the coming days.  

Applications and Services

You say appstore, I say appworld, you say market, I say marketplace – I have been working on appstores for so long that I can’t help but be amused by the recent frenzy of appstores sprouting like mushrooms. I think overall it is good for the industry as each of the providers will push each other in areas of innovation and pricing models thus opening up the industry for developers and consumers. However, the fragmentation also increases as a result and something has to give because developer’s attention and resources are finite. There aren’t many companies who can pull-off a successful developer program (this is one area where Microsoft has some advantage because of significant experience in cultivating developers). Apple’s model has already forced carriers to accelerate their short-term and long-term strategies. T-Mobile USA saw the writing on the wall earlier than most and is further along in its plans. Current implementations are still quite primitive with much potential for improvement.

Rich Communication – Talked to some companies (Aylus, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, etc.) about rich communication services that integrate various experiences on the mobile device including chat, voice, data, social networking, video, etc., onto a single screen. The user experience is enhanced leading to newer sources of revenues for operators.

Netbooks also seem to be on operator roadmaps with 33% of these devices expected to be sold through the carrier channels in 3 years. Will Nokia and Motorola get active in this space? Or will the new entrants use netbooks to enter the phone market? Inspired by Kindle, many players are getting bolder and investing in application specific devices (a trend we wrote about in our mobile advertising book last year). Examples: a cool new wireless video game console – Zeebo being launched in Brazil and nuvifone being launched by Garmin and Asus.

Mobile Social Networking – Some interesting social networking features and functions are coming down the line. I am convinced that carriers need to treat social networking as a core service rather than a bolt on application. I almost wrote a book “The Facebook Effect” but 3 books in a year were too many so taking a break for now. (Maybe the next one will be “The Twitter Effect”).

Mobile Advertising – Though we have been involved with several mobile advertising projects, at the show, it felt the segment excitement was quite flat and many companies are struggling to stay in business. The consolidation hasn’t come yet but things are likely to start changing in the next few months. I also think that industry needs to start thinking about much more compelling and engaging closed-loop creative experiences rather than just impressions. Also, third party verification is needed (who is going to step up?). Finally, the role of the mediation layer is becoming important. The real substantive announcement came before CTIA with four major US operators agreeing to collaborate on best practices. Kudos to MMA for orchestrating the agreement.


Green is the new black – With so much focus on cleantech and global warming, vendors are stepping up and making a dent in the carbon put out by the industry. There were some really cool solar chargeable devices as well as applications that keep the users green-aware. Being green is a competitive advantage.


Devices – The quality of devices that coming out keeps getting better. Stuff coming out from Samsung, LG, and INQ is pretty darn cool (Motorola, Nokia, Palm have some good stuff coming out as well). There were some neat concept phones on display as well (I know, I know, we are ways out but I think we will see some of these come to light sooner than we think). I thought one of the coolest new device was from LG – GD900 with transparent keypad. Samsung’s DLNA and AMOLED based devices were also quite good. They were also showing the WiMAX Smartphone Mondi. ZTE is also planning to enter the US market in a big way. While new Androids were hard to spot, several of them are scheduled to be released in the next few months.

NTT DoCoMo – Each CTIA, I love spending time in DoCoMo’s booth as they are always at the cutting edge of what’s to come. Downloading your digital key to your handset to open your hotel room by waving your phone, controlling every piece of equipment in your home via your cell phone, i-concier: your friendly on-screen butler, separable phones were some of the highlights.

Best booth: Most Creative – SpinVox, Most Hip – LG

Interesting companies – While it is difficult to meet each of the upcoming startups, couple of companies caught our attention: Waze out of Israel with its crowd-sourcing based approach to real-time traffic information and Kovio with its ability to lower the cost of printed silicon.

3G connection – My 3G connection was so good throughout the show that I didn’t need to lug my laptop around and did 100% of my communications for 3 days from my phone.

Your feedback is always welcome.



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

CTIA 2009 in Pictures

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,AORTA,CTIA,Devices,US Wireless Market,Worldwide Wireless Market , 1 comment so far









US Wireless Data Market Update Q408 and 2008 March 2, 2009

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,AORTA,ARPU,BRIC,Carriers,CTIA,Devices,European Wireless Market,Indian Wireless Market,Japan Wireless Market,Location Based Services,Middleware,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Mobile Search,Speaking Engagements,US Wireless Market,WiMax,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 2 comments

US Wireless Data Market Update Q408 and 2008

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Executive Summary

The US wireless data market continued to ignore the recession doldrums in Q4 2008 and grew 7.3% Q/Q and 38.7% from Q407 to reach $9.4B in mobile data services revenues. In 2008, the mobile data services revenues reached our original estimate of $34B. Even as the global industry crossed 4B in subscriptions and $1T in total revenues, the nervousness due to the current recession has been palpable. While the flailing economy has started to hit hard on the wireless data ecosystem esp. the infrastructure and handsets segments, consumers haven’t really pulled back on mobile data spending overall, just yet. There are sub-segments within mobile data revenue stream that are starting to feel the pinch like data card subscriptions and downloadables. Also, in an event of a longer recession, the fate of the US mobile industry will be more closely tied to the overall economy this time compared to the previous recessions.


US Wireless Industry in Recession – A collision of two perfect storms

Back in 2005, we published a paper titled “3G – Hitting the Mass Market” in which we presented the case for an explosive market growth in the US market riding on the back of 3G and posited that by 2009, US will become the leading nation in terms of the number of 3G subscribers. As of 2008, US crossed 100M 3G subscribers catapulting ahead of all industrialized nations in terms of total subscribers (% penetration was around 40%). The paper was based on our work in various markets and study of diffusion trends in the global markets. That study became the subject of several articles and cover stories and was one of the central documents (including our testimony in the case and a report to the President) referred to in one of the most prominent wireless industry cases in front of the US International Trade Commission. Our basic thesis was simple – once you have the favorable ecosystem factors in place, the market is ripe for explosive growth.

2008 was a key year for growth in the mobile data services adoption in the US market. The confluence of 3G, better devices and the smartphones, and the applications ecosystem set the stage for tremendous growth. We already saw signs of significant user adoption and the market grew 7-9% QoQ each quarter in 2008. From almost being in the bottom-most square in 2005 (in our 9-box ARPU charts), US market gained strength to find itself amongst the leaders by the end of 2008 (more on this in our Global Wireless Data Market update for 2008 coming out later this month). At mid-2008 point, 2009 looked to be another year of growth and adoption.

However, the current recession is not your parent’s recession. The problems with the economy are so deep and its impact on the consumer spending and sentiment is so massive that most economists are scrambling to make sense of it. Nobody really has a firm grip on how to fix the current mess because a recession of this magnitude complicated by a globalized economy hasn’t occurred before, so there is no playbook to lean on. We might get lucky and things could turn around in a couple of quarters but things could also take a turn for the worst that might take many more quarters to recover. Markets are incredibly volatile and so are the consumers. All consumer confidence indices are down to their worst ratings ever (The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was down to 25 (on a relative scale of 100) to reach yet another all-time low in February (index began in 1967)).

So, we stand at the junction of two perfect storms – one that has the promise of an incredible surf to take the mobile industry to new heights while the other is hell bent on destroying everything in its path. Will the growth surf be strong enough to absorb the economic tidal wave? or will it set us back in time? or will we end up somewhere in between?

The answer lies in how quickly the consumer sentiment and market psychology improves and stays consistently positive over a period of 3-6 months. If the situation improves in the next 1-2 quarters, the recession will be all but a blip in the overall US mobile data market historic charts. If however, this downward spiral continues and the confidence in the markets is not restored, consumers will start cutting some of the discretionary mobile data spending, even cutting down some family lines, and downgrading of mobile plans (including data) at an accelerated rate. If it is the latter, we are in for a fundamental reset of the economy as Steve Ballmer eloquently outlined in his talk to the Democratic Caucus in Feb.

Impact on the US Wireless Industry during Recessions (Slides 11 and 12)

The current recession is not the first one that the US wireless industry has faced but it is quite different this time around. The first one came in 1990 and lasted for one year and the second came amidst the dot-com bubble and terrorist attacks in 2001 and lasted for two years. Historically and logically, GDP and consumer spend is closely correlated. When the economy contracts, so does the consumer spending. A look into the income elasticity of demand indicates a change in consumer mobile services demand as a result of drop or change in consumer income. Different patterns of consumer demand emerge in different countries depending on the state of the industry during the specific downturn.

To put things in perspective, US represents 21% of the global economy and the US services revenue represents 1.1% of the US economy as of 2008. In access of 70% of the US economy is linked to consumer consumption so you can see the tight linkage between the GDP and the consumer spending (the US consumer spending alone is more than the economies of China and India combined).

If we compare the US GDP data to the mobile services revenues and subscriber data, there is some correlation during recessions i.e. service revenues contract but the state of the industry was quite different around on previous occasions. The % change in mobile services revenues and subscriptions went down with the drop in GDP in both instances and recovered as the GDP pulled back after the recession. During the first recession, mobile was a niche service. By 2001, mobile had passed the inflection point on to become a mass-market phenomenon but data services market was largely non-existent. By 2008, the US mobile market had matured with high-degree of subscriber penetration and mobile data had become a healthy and vibrant industry.

Let’s look at how the mobile industry behaved in the various recessionary periods over the past two decades.

1990-1991 The % GDP change (GDP compared to previous year) dropped from 5.8% in 1990 to 3.3% in 1991. The mobile services revenues % change dropped from 36% to 26% over the same time period, the subscriber % growth dropped from 51% to 43%. Subscriber penetration at the end of 1990 was around 3%. Given the smaller base, the drop in mobile numbers can be partially attributed to the fact that as the % subscriber penetration grows the % change numbers come down anyway. In 1992, when % GDP jumped to 5.7%, the % change in mobile services revenues and total subscribers jumped to 46% and 37% respectively, thus quickly reversing the downward trend.

2001-2003 The % GDP change dropped from 5.9% in 2000 to 3.2% in 2001. Over the same period, % change in mobile services revenues dropped from 31% to 24% and % change in total subscribers dropped from 27% to 17%. However, as you would see in slide 11, these numbers have been slowly dropping regardless of the recession as the subscriber and revenue base grew. The subscriber penetration in 2000 was 39%.

2007- The % GDP change dropped from 4.8% in 2007 to 2.3% in 2008. Q4 2008 reported a drop by 6.2% QoQ in one of the sharpest declines in the last quarter century. The nature of this recession is quite different as well. While the previous recessions were limited to certain segments of the overall economy, the current recession has touched almost all sectors with a vengeance. The subscriber penetration at the end of 2008 was 89%. The overall ARPU stayed pretty steady around $50 between 2001 and 2008, while data ARPU became a growing component of the overall mobile services revenue.

What to expect in the coming months?

As we noted in our Q3 2008 note, in some sense, the Christmas quarter might have masked some of the microtrends within the mobile data segment of the industry though Europe started to feel the pinch in Q4. If one looks deeper into the sub segments, as we contemplated in our Q3 research note, it is clear that the layoffs are having an impact on the data card revenues (which account for approx. 10-12% of the overall mobile data revenues in the US) as the enterprises are dropping access cards with employees. Downloadables revenues were down from some segments of the user base as discretionary spending tightens.

Also, there was a shift from postpaid to prepaid in some user segments. For example, for T-Mobile, prepaid constituted 57% of the net-adds in Q408 sharply up from 23% in Q407 (though Suncom subscriber base probably has something to do with it). Rising unemployment has accelerated another trend – landline replacement by Mobile which reached almost 20% by Q408 (of course this benefits the mobile industry). This trend is irreversible unless new experiences can be introduced.

Messaging continues to grow. The messaging volume jumped 15% and messaging revenue was up 5.5% QoQ. The data access (excluding data card) including flat rate data plan subscriptions have also showed significant strength offlate. In addition to smartphones, we are also seeing increased mobile data activity amongst feature phone users.

The key question is – will the increase in the mobile data subscriber base nullify the loss in data subscriptions? and the answer seems to be – likely yes. But, if the job losses continue at the current rate, we will start to see flattening of data revenues in Q109 for some operators and a gradual decline over the course of the year. We have already started to see infrastructure (operators are slowing down 3G/4G investment) and device segments (replacement cycles are getting longer) getting hit pretty hard. Smartphones remain a bright spot, which in turn has a direct positive impact on the data revenues. Even with the decline in handset sales, smartphone segment will continue to increase in 2009 accounting for almost 30% of the overall device shipments.

As we eluded to earlier, another factor at play is the growth in 3G and smartphone penetration in the US market, both of which have been responsible for increasing the usage and hence the data revenues. At the end of Q408, 3G penetration was approximately 40% and the data penetration had reached 60%. Smartphone penetration has been inching up as well. In fact, all the service providers and OEMs have been targeting sub-$200 price point, which seems to be a good sweet spot for consumer adoption. The above two factors have also been helping negate any cancellations or downgrading of data plans.

We are likely to see continued price and margin pressure on subscription plans and as a result, voice ARPU will continue its downward trend and data ARPU will become a more prominent factor of the overall ARPU mix by the end of 2009. The longer the recession lasts, the more permanent the shift in voice ARPU becomes. Customer retention will edge customer acquisition. Same would be true with the consumer behavior and expectations. This will lead to new business and pricing models for e.g. some will find the low flat rate pricing untenable in the long-run without a fundamental rethink of the network and business architecture.

The percentage contribution to the overall ARPU from data reached almost 25% in 2008 and is likely to exceed 30% by the end of 2009. For the first time since 1998, the voice ARPU dip below $40 in the US.

During the last downturn, the likes of Google emerged. These players didn’t have much to do with the mobile market at the time but have gradually put their indelible stamp on the future of the industry. It is almost certain that new media and telecom models will emerge as a result of the current crises with new players shaping the next decade of the mobile industry.

Whether this recession invites regulatory intervention remains to be seen. Government can encourage mobile adoption by reducing taxes and fees on mobile services, avoiding unnecessary regulations, making more spectrum readily available, increasing competition, investing and incentivizing in mobile broadband.

Also, will the industry price or innovate its way out of this recession? The short-term knee-jerk reaction is to generally lean on price-differentiation but innovative services and business models can lay the ground work for a more sustainable differentiation and long-term benefits from new services adoption.

Coming back to the 2008 forecasts, our estimate of the mobile data revenues was spot on. The annual mobile data services revenue stood at $34B. 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. Q109 numbers will give us a better insight into the impact of the current recession on the US mobile industry and the global markets at large.

The bottom line is that in an event of a long and deep recession (i.e. beyond 2009), which I am afraid seems to be the case, the fate of the US mobile industry will be more closely tied to the overall economy this time compared to the previous recessions. If the consumer and market sentiment improves within the next 3-6 months, the mobile data industry will continue its rapid growth. Despite a difficult environment, we expect the mobile data services revenues to grow by at least 15% YOY in 2009.

Against this backdrop, the analysis of the Q408 and 2008 US wireless data market is:

Service Revenues (Slides 14 , 21, 22)

ARPU (Slides15-18)

Subscribers (Slides 19-20)

Applications and Services


Misc. (Slide 23)

Preliminary Global Update (Slides 21-22)

We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, future research reports, and articles. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in March 2009 and the next US Wireless Data Market update will be issued in May 2009.

To the 1% of you who have made it this far, thanks very much for your time and attention.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Should you need assistance in navigating or understanding the economic and competitive icebergs, please feel free to drop us a line.


Chetan Sharma

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

Now it’s Nokia’s turn December 2, 2008

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to challenge its friendly rival – the iPhone with N97. The device looks pretty sharp and easy to use. it is sleek and appealing. The problem might be the price of the device – currently at almost $700 w/o subsidies. We know that $200 is the bar set by iPhone and other smartphones have been in the same range ever since. Even with subsidies, N97 will probably be in the $300-$400 range, not a mass-market price. Will it meet the fate of the Nokia Communicator or will Nokia throw in some subsidy dollars to bring the device down to the competing levels.

Also, Nokia as usual will be targeting Europe first and US probably won’t see the device until 12-18 months later, clearly a missed opportunity. They need to learn from Apple how to launch devices and capture the buzz and momentum. N97 looks like a serious challenge thus far to iPhone but other factors might thwart its success.

More on the launch here

US Wireless Data Market Update – Q2 2008 August 10, 2008

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The US wireless data market grew 40% in Q208 compared to Q207 to reach $8.2B in data revenues. The total for 2008 stands at $15.7B for the first six months, 38% higher than the total for the same time period in 2007. The news of Alltel acquisition, iPhone 3G, and the flat rate pricing wars dominated the news. Though the infatuation for iPhone was a few degrees lower, Apple managed to keep the device front and center of the news cycles. US again exceeded Japan in mobile data service revenues for the quarter and the market is on track to reach $34B in data revenues for 2008.

Global update

          More details in our worldwide wireless data market update in our Global Wireless Data Market Update Sept 2008.

Your feedback is always welcome.


Chetan Sharma

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

CTIA Wireless 2008 Roundup April 4, 2008

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CTIA Wireless 2008 Roundup


The Sin City hosted CTIA Wireless 2008 earlier this week. On Wednesday morning, just before leaving for the convention center, I caught some portion of Ben Bernanke’s congressional testimony on the US economy woes. Few minutes later, strolling the show floor, talking to various companies, and hearing the keynotes, it seemed like I was on a different planet. Either someone failed to deliver the memo or the wireless industry is resilient enough to weather the turmoil in the financial and housing markets with some ease. The show was bigger with more attendees, the booths were returning to their glamorous heydays of the past, and the general buzz and energy at the show all seem to indicate the industry is going to do just fine and is primed for further growth. The general themes were around open network and access, user experience, and bandwidth.

This note summarizes our impressions from the show.

CTIA Wireless in Pictures

First let’s do the numbers: CTIA released their semi-annual statistics on the US market. In summary: For 2007, $23B in data revenues, 2 trillion in MOU, $139B in total service revenues, 48B txt messages/month. (We released our US Market and Global Market updates last month)

Keynotes: In terms of style, Sir Richard Branson stole the show with his pompous exuberance and pep talk (the talk of imaginary flight to Mars was hilarious; investors in Microgin and Viroo must be upset). For substance, Marco Boerries, President, Yahoo Mobile gave a nice compact overview of Yahoo initiatives and products in the market which are pretty darn good. (Marco wrote an opinion piece for our Mobile Advertising Book – “The future of Advertising is in the Consumers’ Pockets”). Yahoo has sewn together a number of deals worldwide that gives them a potential reach of over 600M users.

Vodafone is one operator which has been quite vocal in stating its positions on future infrastructure roadmap and data opportunities. Arun Sarin is probably the only CEO of major global operator who has publicly stated that Mobile Advertising will constitute a significant portion of their revenues in the coming days (Arun’s point person on the initiative Richard Saggers also wrote an opinion piece for our book “Opportunities for Mobile Advertising.” Let me know if you are interested in reading these two opinion pieces).

Microsoft’s Robbie Bach had the tough task of following the Branson-fest. He announced the arrival of a full-blown browser (finally!) for windows mobile. Also, the new windows mobile device from Sony Ericsson (Xperia) looks pretty darn cool. FCC Chairman Martin announced the rejection of Skype petition on the carterphone principle (to Skype’s dismay, it was not an April fool’s joke). Clearly, the definition of “open” is in the eye of the beholder. It means different things to different people. It has also been clear from the various activities and keynotes that the industry is trying its utmost to remain a “Self-regulated” industry and stay away from the clutches of eager politicians.

Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon Wireless conducted a panel with CEOs from Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, and Nortel and probed them on the 4G migration path, trends in applications and services, and contrasts in adoption and introduction of new technology in various parts of the world. Final day was marked by what is now becoming a trend – keynotes from politicians. This time around Sen. Edwards and Sen. Thompson graced the podium.

Mobile Advertising: In talking with numerous players in the value chain from small developers to large operators to ad networks to media companies, the impression was that things have matured over the last six months. It was gratifying to hear that some companies are adopting strategies and recommendations we propose in our book. Still, some of the basic problems remain – majority of the inventory remain unsold indicating weak demand, CPM rates are still over-rated though they are starting to come down, and fragmentation continues to remain an issue.

The good news is that the size of the mobile campaign budgets are getting bigger with several seven figure RFPs floating around. While some companies are still trying to throw a lot at the wall in the hope that something sticks, others are maturing as companies and are more focused in their positioning and product roadmaps. Integration of various channels is starting to appear on the horizon and the integration with the publishers is becoming tighter. The issue of measurement and auditing standards remains a big issue and unfortunately not much progress to report. There are carrier initiatives and various industry bodies are taking the challenge to rally the ecosystem, but, frankly, consolidation of such efforts is necessary, we can’t afford yet another layer of fragmentation in an already complex ecosystem.

We were interviewed on Mobile Advertising prior to the show by several publications. Some of the articles were published this week to coincide with CTIA

Wireless Wave (CTIA)Moving Targets: Mobile marketing reaches consumers on their terms by Lynn Thorne

BrandWeekMobile Marketing – Fantasy vs. Reality by Ken Hein

Wall Street JournalPersonalized promotions: Sending the right ads to your phone – Peggy Anne Salz

NFC: There were many more NFC-enabled devices on display this time and vendors were talking and demoing NFC and Biometrics based payment solutions. While there are handsets on the roadmap, this market is still very nascent in North America and Western Europe.

Inspiration: The inspiration for new and creative services still comes (at least for yours truly) from Japan (and Korea). I love spending time in DoCoMo’s booth for it gives a glimpse into what’s to come. No other company better understands the development of devices, services and applications that overlay on lifestyles than DoCoMo (e.g. a wellness handset that is a pedometer, heart rate monitor, body and bad breath monitor and yes, you can make voice calls too). They view wireless air-interfaces as nothing more than enablers to solutions that enhance daily lives. Various device manufacturers also displayed some really cool devices. The quality and diversity of handsets that have been introduced into the global markets over the last four quarters is just astonishing. The cycle of innovation and time-to-market keeps on accelerating.

Femto Cells: A number of players like Airwalk, Airvana, and others are bringing Femto cell solutions to the market and carriers are starting to pull this into their strategy as well and look forward to deployments beyond the trials.

4G: LTE vs. WiMAX (vs. UMB): Since the decision of Vodafone and Verizon to support LTE, UMB has been disappearing from the discussion. The 4G discussion is convulsing around LTE and WiMAX now (though Nortel did indicate its support TD-SCDMA as a 4G candidate). Without a doubt the operator community is rallying behind LTE and there might be an opportunity to finally converge to a single standard (haven’t we seen this movie before) but frankly, the advances in silicon to integrate multiple radios has made the standards debate less relevant. WiMAX has forced acceleration of LTE standardization process but is starting to lose its time (and cost) advantage. All eyes are on Sprint’s XOHM business rollouts in the coming days and months.

Accessories: I have never seen so many accessory and reseller outfits at a CTIA show. Business must be booming.

Best Booth: Thought there were several good layouts, LG and Samsung continue to impress with their creativity and “art of marketing.”

Developer and Publisher woes: Along with John Philips (Astraware) and Peter Baldwin (Cellmania), I helped facilitate a few developer session at the Mobile Jam Session organized by WIP. The issues of distribution, discovery, and monetization remain challenging for the small developers worldwide. Even with million user base, they are finding it difficult to monetize but we did discuss a number of success stories. The core elements of success that emerged from the discussion were: choosing the right market, embedding viral component into everything you throw out there, there is no room for mediocrity, and personalizing and customizing go a long way to get traction. An interesting tidbit: the number of page views for mobile MySpace app is a magnitude higher on off-deck vs. ondeck. Several of the companies are trying mobile advertising with varying degrees of success. After spending 4 hours with the developers, I sat on a carrier panel discussing mobile advertising. The contrast between the two worlds was so apparent. Clearly, more needs to be done to help both sides understand each other a bit better.

Green CTIA: There is a stronger emphasis on recycling and contributing to save the environment. The show itself is a big resource hog, so every bit helps.

Alternate Mobile Devices: The universe of alternate devices is expanding. Companies are buying wholesale data packages from the operators and integrating broadband chipsets into hardware to do digital signage (ICG), M2M (Sensorlogic), PND and much more. The definition of being “mobile” keeps on changing.

On Being “Open”: Obviously, given the recent activity around openness, getting a penny for each time the word was uttered by a speaker would have paid off for a lifetime of CTIA trips. While talk is cheap, demonstrable progress is being made by the likes Yahoo, Apple (btw, 3G iPhone is on its way), and AOL.

Another MVNO experiences turmoil: Movida – a Spanish focused MVNO which has garnered almost 300K subs filed for chapter 11.

Voice is becoming mainstream: With the product launches from Nuance, SpinVox, Vlingo, Jott, Yahoo, and many others, voice based navigation and its tighter integration with data services is becoming mainstream.

Where are the opportunities? Last week, I was moderating a panel with executives from AOL Mobile, T-Mobile, Motricity, and Formotus and the themes that emerged were around platform play, user experience, and productivity. At CTIA, in addition to these areas, there was a lot of discussion around social networking (though the market is being saturated with the MoSo noise). It is also clear that we are moving into the phase of “aggregation of fragmentation” with initiatives from Yahoo, AOL, and Google dominating the landscape.

Home Screen Effect: I have been talking about using the home screen for driving data usage for the last 8 years. I think we will see good innovation this year on that front starting with Yahoo’s One Platform. There are several other initiatives in the works where operators and OEMs will be deploying frameworks and technologies to bring information to a “click-less” idle screen environment.

Overall, no major news but industry stays vibrant, healthy, and exciting.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

Disclosure: Some of the companies mentioned in this note are our clients.

Global Wireless Data Market Update 2007 March 27, 2008

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Global Wireless Data Market Update 2007

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As you read this End of Year (EOY) 2007 Global Wireless Data Market update this week, somewhere in India, a new subscription will catapult India over the US as the number 2 global wireless market. 2007 was a banner year for global wireless data market. The global service revenues for the year touched $700 billion, the data service revenues were more than $120 billion, China signed its 500 millionth subscription, and both India (in feb 08) and the US crossed the 250 million subscription mark. 2007 continued to enhance mobile data’s role in the operator ecosystem with approx 17% of the revenue is coming from data services.

For some leading operators, data is now contributing up to 35% of the revenues however increase in data ARPU is not completely offsetting the drop in voice ARPU. From the true and tested SMS messaging to new services such as Mobile TV, Enterprise apps, and others, different services helped in adding billions to the revenues generated for 2007. Japan and Korea remain the envy of the global markets and the countries to study and learn from w.r.t. new services and applications. The US market has been steadily making strong comeback and for the first time exceeded Japan in service revenue generated from mobile data.

Chetan Sharma Consulting conducted its semiannual study on the global mobile data industry. We studied wireless data trends in over 40 major countries – from developed and mature markets such as Japan, Korea, UK, and Italy to hyper growth markets such as China and India. This note summarizes the findings from the research.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

Disclosure: Some of the companies mentioned in this note are our clients.

US Wireless Market Update – 4Q07 and 2007 March 10, 2008

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US Wireless Market Update – 4Q07 and 2007

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The US wireless data market grew 55% in 2007 ending the year with $24.5 billion in data services revenues with 4Q yielding $6.9B. 2007 also saw significant industry milestones like: iPhone launch, US crossing 250 million subscriptions, 3G penetration in the US touching 25% subscriber base, consternation around 700 MHz spectrum auction, MediaFLO launch, Android launch, Nokia crossing 40% market share, WiMAX and Femto Cell trials, and much more. US almost equaled Japan in mobile data service revenues for the year (rounding error and currency fluctuation difference). With several significant launches coming up in 2008, US remains one of the most attractive wireless data markets.

Global update

          More details in our worldwide wireless data market update coming out later this month.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

Nokia crosses 40% market share January 24, 2008

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Nokia blew the 4Q by shipping over 133M handsets. Stunning.

Pacific Northwest Wireless Summit January 15, 2008

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Looking forward to meeting new friends and colleagues at the upcoming PNWS conference in beautiful Vancouver, BC this Thursday.There are some really great speakers and panelists. I have the privilege to present, participate, and moderate in two of the panels.

Mobile Marketing and Advertising

I will be sharing some research from our upcoming book on Mobile Advertising and then participate in a panel discussion with Alfredo Tan, Yahoo! Mobile, Matt Snyder, ADO Strategies (formerly with Nokia), and Olivier Vincent, Canpages. The panel is moderated by Michael Bidu of WINBC.

Understand Mobile Asia

I will be moderating this panel consisting of Asokan Thiyagarajan, Motorola, David Dai, CellOn China, and Karl Weaver, Newport Technologies.

If you would like to see any specific questions answered, please let me know. I will do a conference report later this weekend.

Apart from these panels, there are other panels on Mobile Commerce, Mobile Entertainment and Social Networking, Mobile Trends, Insights, Undeserved Vertical Markets, Mobile Enterprise, Disruptive Technologies, Smart DNAs, Wireless Innovation and Accelerated Commercialization, Go-to-market strategy. CEOs and executives from prominent companies in the region are going to be there. There are keynotes throughout the day including Luni from Medio, Fred Ghahramani, AirG, and Sue Abu-Hakima, Amika Mobile.

Caroline Lewko of WIP and WINBC fame also be moderating a couple of sessions.

There will be discussion about 2010 Olympics as well.

All in all a very packed day from 8am to 9pm and then a mixer that will probably go till midnight.

Hope to see some of you there.

CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment 2007 Roundup October 28, 2007

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The early morning full moon over the San Francisco bay was much more inspiring than any gizmos or gimmicks at the annual CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment show. Maybe it is the conference fatigue setting in but the scaled back event failed to gather steam and one had to rely on alternate sources to get a sense of where things are headed in the next 6-12 months. This note summarizes the observations and commentary from the show.

First let’s do the numbers. CTIA released its mid-year data survey for the year. In summary, as of June 2007 – 243M subs, $67.9B in revenues (first 6 months), $10.5B in data revenues for the year accounting for 15.5% of the total service revenue, MOU exceeded 1 Trillion minutes, 1B TXT messages daily. These numbers were in line with the numbers we reported back in Aug.

Keynotes – The central theme that tied the three keynotes was “Be Open, Do Good Work, and Rest will take care of itself.” The keynotes from Steve Ballmer, Microsoft, Dustin Moskovitz, Facebook, and Atish Gude, Sprint Nextel emphasized the need to have an “open platform” for innovation, applications, and services. Haven’t we been down this lane before?

Steve started by taking a page out of our (upcoming) book, literally (page 243 to be exact) and describing a vision where mobile device becomes the remote control of your life for both workstyle and lifestyle. Too often we focus on separating out personal vs. professional but our lives are so intertwined that one minute you are setting up a doctor’s appointment and the next minute closing a sale. Companies that focus on managing the experience start to finish (waking to sleeping) independent of everything else will be the ones that dominate these turf wars. Microsoft’s big announcement was the release of device management server that includes mobile devices in addition to the desktop world (but it is limited to windows mobile devices only, Open?). Microsoft has been making impressive strides in occupying its place in the mobile ecosystem. Though windows mobile and battery life don’t go together, the fact that they are deployed with 160 operators in 55 countries, shipping 20M devices/year places them at a significant advantage in the coming days.

Facebook’s Moskovitz made the plea for openness of networks, devices, and applications to enable the social networking phenomenon on mobile. The fact that Microsoft and Facebook were doing the keynotes on the eve of strategic investment wasn’t a coincidence. Dustin brought out the elderly statesman Mike Lazaridis to announce the facebook app for Blackberry smartphones. The interesting thing was how the app was introduced – Facebook chose RIM and RIM chose T-Mobile for this app. Device manufacturers are surely getting bolder. Facebook extended its platform to mobile. Getting social networking apps on mobile is a no-brainer. In fact, the coming enhancements with Presence, IMS, Broadband, Profiling, Location, can make mobile social network a society of its own.

I thought the most forceful case for “openness” was delivered by Atish Gude, SVP of the XOHM (WiMAX) initiative at Sprint Nextel. In fact, it was exactly along the lines of our recommendations for the operators in our book. Atish talked about openness across network, devices, content, and applications to deliver a great “customer experience.” Operators focus on delivering the intelligent network by focusing on QoS, Network elements like Presence and Location, Security, and Consistency of throughput and performance and leave the innovation in applications and services on the ecosystem who know how best to exploit the medium. His definition of “device” expanded beyond the mobile phone into consumer electronics and appliances which is a smart way of looking at things. However, vision is one thing and execution is another. Will Sprint be able to deliver on this vision in a timely fashion amidst quarterly Wall Street pressure is going to define the industry more than any of the hoopla of 700MHz.

Enterprise MIA – One of the personalities was clearly missing from the show. Yes, there was an enterprise pavilion but nothing new and different surfaced. Microsoft’s late foray into the device management space was the only worthwhile news that emerged.

LBS – The LBS industry proudly presented its posterchilds TeleAtlas, Navteq, TeleNav, and others. Their imposing presence on the show floor and in some of the sessions was palpable. I have been working in or following this space since 1995 and it finally feels that there is going to be some activity in this space after years of posturing, delays, and hype. However, the true value of “location” can’t be unlocked unless it truly becomes “open” for the application and service developers. The delivery of coordinates for every request is not cheap so some form of business model or technical break through is needed to make the use pervasive. Some of the newer players displaying their wares were Telmap, locr, and earthcomber.

Mobile Advertising – It is great to see the progress over the last 12 months. The distribution, inventory, and ad networks are all improving and size of the campaigns are starting to reach six figures on average. Some of the working demos I saw were really compelling and some unique solutions are going to be introduced in the market in the next six months. Though the space is still nascent, some trends have started to emerge – companies who are focused on solving the problem end-to-end from strategy to execution to understanding the results are separating themselves from the plethora of technology providers in the space. There is tremendous amount of work that needs to be done in the metrics and auditing space in addition to the integration of silos.

WiMAX picks up steam On the heels of WiMAX being declared as part of the IMT-2000 family, WiMAX is slated to gather momentum though a lot still depends on carriers like Sprint to deploy nationwide networks and device manufacturers like Nokia, Motorola, and Samsung to bring cheap devices to the market. Nevertheless, Cisco’s acquisition of Navini, Beceem’s deal with NEC and others are signs of positive movement in this sector.

Mobile Video a dying market? Already? Only a couple of CTIAs ago, Mobile video took the event by storm only to find defending itself as a viable business in a short span of time. The video quality has improved significantly but the business models have not.

Entering the US market – US remains one of the most attractive market for mobile data but very few overseas firm succeed. One of the big European brands “Zed” is making an aggressive and impressive push into the US market and is expecting up to 30% (or $150M) of its revenues coming from the US market in the next 12 months. They have developed a good platform for interactive games that tie the experience across mobile and online really well. EA and the likes should take notice.

Open – not in my backyard The keynotes were in sharp contrast with some of the carrier panels. One of them seemed to be the replay of a session I attended in 2001 or was it 1997. Eerie.

Presence, IMS – The discussion around presence and IMS is intensifying. Demos are getting better and the coordination between carriers to standardize and interoperate is improving but we still have a long way to go.

Coolest gadget – NeuroSky filled the void of a gadget less show by showcasing its mind-over-matter technology. Using brainwaves which are detected by a sensor attached to your head, it allows the user to move, push, and float objects by just concentrating on them. Remember The Matrix. Now, if you throw in Philip’s amBX and Microvision’s PicoP, your cell phone becomes this gaming platform that takes the die-hards to the transcendental state of nirvana.

iPhone continues to dominate the talk – iPhone continues to set the tone of discussion in the industry. Since July, there has hardly been a mobile conference worth its salt that hasn’t had a session on “impact of iPhone.” There hasn’t been a mobile device like this one and it shows. Attendees proudly fiddled with their iPhones in public and were eager to discuss their experience and forecasts.

US vs. Europe – There was quite a bit of us vs. them discussion. CTIA’s Wireless Wave magazine started the discussion by its cover story article “The Continental Divide” (for which we were interviewed). It was soon covered by the likes of WSJ (Walt Mossberg – Free My Phone), GigaOM (How far behind is the US vs. Europe?), Steve Largent (Largent to Mossberg .. Wish you were here in San Francisco), and others. As I say in the article – the picture is more complicated .. and one needs to take a holistic view. This topic is crying for a detailed study.

MCommerce – Behind closed doors there is a lot of discussion on MCommerce and how to enable phone to become the wallet of choice (this will be music to the ears to my colleagues in Japan and Korea). Some new and interesting models are starting to appear. One is from Mobilians, a company that has had good success in South Korea and is now setting its sight on the US market. Their focus is to use the phone to enable payment of online and offline goods. In Korea, Mobilians is registering 7M transactions/ month and over $1B in goods sold/year with up to $250 items (which appear on the carrier bill). This is a totally untapped space for the carrier and is a threat to the credit card companies especially for the low cost items where the 2%+20-25c fee drives up the effective rate for the merchant. A tier-1 carrier is also looking to firm up its mCommerce strategy in the next few weeks. It should be noted that some of the smaller regional carriers who survive due to laser focus customer service are testing and rolling out innovative solutions ahead of their bigger peers. For e.g. CellularSouth launched picture application (with Ontela) and after their successful trials with NFC based payments is looking into launching WirelessWallet. Similarly, some others are in the process of getting some LBS, Mobile Search, and Mobile Advertising solutions in the next quarter or so.


· AOL Mobile re-launched its mobile suite of products. It has a good suite of assets and the company is starting to integrate and enhance the user experience.

· More M&A activities are expected in the mobile advertising space in the next 6-12 months as startups use every advantage to maximize the returns before the big boys catch-up.

· There was hardly any mention of the gPhone or the zPhone.

· Verizon and Sprint are boosting the holiday season lineups to counter the onslaught of iPhone with similar looking phones.

· Becker – a 60 year old company which launched the first ever car radio showed off its “Traffic Assist” unit which had a good user interface and free real-time traffic info for life.

· M2M players such as Telit and Numerex showed their solutions in the machine-to-machine communications space.

· Talkster talked about its free global calls in exchange of listening to ads.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

Whitepaper: Unified Mobile Data Platform – An Analytics based approach June 11, 2007

Posted by chetan in : 3G,AORTA,ARPU,BRIC,Carriers,Devices,European Wireless Market,Indian Wireless Market,Intellectual Property,International Trade,Japan Wireless Market,Mergers and Acquisitions,Messaging,Microsoft Mobile,Middleware,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Mobile Gaming,Mobile Search,Mobile TV,Mobile Usability,MVNO,Strategy,Unified Messaging,US Wireless Market,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , add a comment


Unified Mobile Data Platform An Analytics based approach

Sponsored by InfoSpace Mobile

Download PDF (30 pages, 1MB)

Executive Summary

2006 was a banner year for mobile data. Revenues from mobile data increased for all major carriers across all major regions around the world with data contributing 10-30% to overall revenues. In Q1 2007, US carriers recorded over $5B in data revenues with mobile data contributing to over 16% of the more than $32B in carrier service revenues. In fact, the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) from data jumped 43% from last year. It has been a long journey though. Driven initially by SMS messaging, the market embraced ringtones, graphics, music, and gaming, each creating multi-billion dollar markets. As we look into the next five years, not only are new content applications such as broadcast video, idle screen, user-generated-content, community, and mobile search being introduced, but the functionality available with these applications, such as the sharing and tagging of data, is also increasing the demand on the mobile entertainment platform to be adaptive to the growing needs of the market. To stay competitive in this rapidly evolving and challenging market place, service providers must move from silo’d point solutions to integrated unified platforms to maximize their returns from the declining services and better prepare for the technical and business challenges in front of them. The vast potential of mobile data services in general and mobile search and advertising specifically can’t be realized without a retooling of the fundamental approach to deploying services, engaging partners, and serving users with the best possible analytics-driven contextual user experience. This paper outlines the evolution of data services, discusses the need for unified mobile data services approach, and lays out the basics and the merits of a services-oriented analytics-driven framework.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary                                                               2

Evolution of data services                                                      3

Integrated solution offering                                                   11

Mobile Search – providing impetus for integration                   15

Rise of the brands – What’s your Audience Strategy?               17

Analytics driven unified framework                                        21

Mobile Advertising                                                               26

Recommendations                                                               29

Conclusions                                                                         30

Your comments are always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

TiE-Seattle: Mobile Content Monetization – Challenges and Strategies June 1, 2007

Posted by chetan in : 3G,AORTA,ARPU,Carriers,Devices,Japan Wireless Market,Messaging,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Mobile Gaming,Mobile Search,Mobile Usability,Mobile Wallet,Strategy,Unified Messaging,US Wireless Market,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 7 comments

TiE Seattle Chapter hosted its annual mobile event earlier today. Given that Seattle is the mecca for wireless, it was no surprise that it was a sold out event with standing room only. I had the privilege of coordinating the event with my friend Sandeep Sinha – Director, Motorola. The keynote was given by Cole Brodman, Chief Development Officer, T-Mobile USA, a charismatic leader in the industry who rarely speaks at industry events, so it was great to have him participate.

The panel discussion was on “Mobile Content Monetization – Challenges and Strategies” – clearly a hot topic where lot of industry attention is these days. The panel was moderated by Len Jordan, General Partner, Frazier Technology Ventures. The panelists included:

Brendan Benzing, VP of Products and Marketing, Infospace

Jai Jaisimha, VP Product Development, Medio Systems

Satoshi Nakajima, CEO, UIEvolution

Hank Skorny, Executive VP, Business Dev & Partnering, OZ Communications

First let’s discuss the keynote and then I will get into the panel discussion. Cole walked us through the history of data growth in T-Mobile (he has been with the company for 11 years) and made some observations about the industry and the potential challenges and industry opportunities. Salient points included –

Then the discussion moved to a panel discussion with distinguished experts pondering over issues and future of the industry. key discussion points were:

When there is a carrier on the panel, it will be dishonest for the moderator to not touch upon the “closed garden” issue, the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about in front of the carrier but endlessly ponder behind the backs. Well, Len didn’t shy away and put it straight to the panel. Satoshi, a veteran in the industry was bold to address it head-on, telling it like it is — carrier model in the US is a closed model and that hurts the entrepreneurs and if you think you will be in the next company which gets sold to Google, forget it. Lead time are so long that you might not survive. Brendan said it takes patience and commitment to scalability and reliability before you can crack the nut.

Cole to his credit acknowledged the issue and said, yes, as carriers, we do make things hard for the entrepreneurs to work with us, we haven’t built enough tools to make things simpler. However, he said, carriers need to take few issues into consideration, the biggest one being customer support costs. If there is a minor issue, multiply that by 26M and it can quickly become a nightmare. Secondly, User experience needs to be solid. We as an industry haven’t done a good job, he thought, by pushing out some of the half-baked solutions. And, finally, the spectrum isn’t free like the Internet, even when broadband comes, it will be an issue. However, industry needs to set the bar for introduction of apps a bit lower to test out the market, so instead of releasing it to 26M, introduce it to a small subset, test and expand. T-Mobile is working on figuring this out.

When asked, what’s the driving factor for mobile content, everyone agreed (of course) the personal nature of the device, the asynchronous capability, and personalization capability is important. Satoshi mentioned his nirvana moment was when he saw the first version of a mobile fishing game in Japan, where users could set the location for fish and when the back-end server ‘caught’ the fish, an SMS alert was sent. It affirmed the “different nature of this medium”. Hank narrowed it down to communication, jewelry, and entertainment being the key elements for mobile. Jai said that presence and location are going to make a huge difference in mobile UX.

The challenge of discovery of content was mentioned. Brendan thought the opportunity for “mobile advertising” is huge but it will take good amount of time for the market to develop. The models for advertising based content monetization will start to happen. Jai also thought indirect monetization models will start to happen soon and also Long tail content monetization will be significant as it is an untapped territory right now.

Len asked, how things are different in Intl market? Brendan said, some of the differences are in how people consume media, and how mobile fulfills the need for media consumption demands and needs.

To the question of how we pay for all this, Satoshi pointed out two business models, one is people will pay for mobilizing their Internet experiences. He said, Myspace is free online but the mobile version is $3.99 but is the biggest selling app on AT&T (value is in immediacy) and second the standard comcast/cable model of flat fee for services like VCast irrespective of the apps and content you consume (with bundling of course).

Brendan thought that Personalization will always be a big market. Also, an untapped market is the commerce on the phone. Online, 30% of search revenue is based on checkout or from ecommerce players. Micropayments for commerce and content will be big.

Cole emphasized that things need to be made very simple like RIM did for email – intuitive and easy to use. He said, carriers should focus on horizontal things instead of focusing too much on vertical elements. To the question on alternate billing models, they are looking at Paypal and other means for billing.

Satoshi thought that offdeck market is another opportunity that hasn’t been fully exploited yet but the challenge is getting eyeballs.

Finally, there was a question around why US is so behind. Cole countered that there is a perception that US is behind but we are doing fairly well. I agree, if you look the numbers, 12-15% growth Q-over-Q over past 10+ quarters ain’t bad. That’s clearly a misconception in the market as highlighted in our Q107 update.

So, a variety of issues tackled, some fun discussion, good networking, and a very successful event. Thanks to all those who were able to make it. The Wireless SIG is doing another event in June, stay tuned.

Chetan Sharma Consulting was a proud sponsor of the event along with other great sponsors.

 Photo Credits: Shashi Shashidhar

Carnival of the Mobilists #68 April 9, 2007

Posted by chetan in : 4G,AORTA,Carriers,CTIA,Devices,European Wireless Market,Infrastructure,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Mobile Gaming,Mobile Usability,Mobile Users,Privacy,Smart Phones,Strategy,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 14 comments

In 1991, Mark Weiser, in his seminal article, “The Computer for the 21st Century,” described ubiquitous computing as a “world in which humans and computers were seamlessly united”. The article opened with “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it”. IBM evangelized the concept as pervasive computing in the nineties. Later in 1997, Mark Anderson, one of the best forecasters in our business, coined the term AORTA or “Always On-Real Time Access” to announce the age of “always on, always connected to any information at anytime, anywhere”. Then, in 2003, my good friend Dr. Yasuhisa Nakamura at NTT DoCoMo wrote in the Introduction of our book about broadband connectivity that will become an “air-like” infrastructure, omnipresent, without us (devices) being conscious of it. That’s the essence of this blog, discussing the ideas put forth by Mark Weiser and subsequent visionaries – tracking the AORTA evolution.


I am glad you could join us for the 68th edition of the Carnival of the Mobilists – a weekly showcase of best writing by Mobilists from around the world on topics that are near and dear to us. I am delighted to present you with the best posts from last week that will help carry the discussion of AORTA forward.

Ajit Jaokar of OpenGardens fame muses – why carriers are not proactive about increasing touch points with the customers?. Indeed, carriers could do a much better job by the communicating with their customers via what else – the device. Shouldn’t mobile advertising start at home?

Raddedas at TechType takes the South Korean mobile players like Samsung and LG to task for not opening up their platforms to external developers. Welcome to the Carnival and thanks for your post.

Ed at The Pisstakers writes about formatting website with graphics to fit cell phones.

James Pearce at Tripleodeon opines about “The Mobile Web is Generation Y’s”.

David Beers at Software Everywhere in his post “Is the network the (mobile) computer?” talks about designing applications and services with user experience in mind.

Barbara Ballard at Little Springs Design writes about Smart Phone Evolution. Also, if you want to dig deeper into mobile user experience, be sure to check out her recently released book on “Designing the Mobile User Experience” by John Wiley.

Shawn at Shackdiesel takes FCC to task for banning the user cell phone on flights. There is no technical evidence that there is any interference with avionics equipment, but the myth persists.

Tomas Zeman writes for Wirenode mobile blog about the need for feedback from mobile users.

My favorite post of the week comes from Andreas Constantinou who does an analysis of the slow demise of browser companies like Openwave who helped pioneer the space but failed to keep up with the times.

Apple and EMI’s journey into the bold new DRM-free world is captured well by Rudy De Waele in his post “DRM Free at Last”. EMI’s Nicoli had hinted of this in his keynote in Orlando.

CTIA saw the arrival of Zenzui and Deepfish, both from Microsoft. Carlo Longino at MobHappy ponders – “Mobile UI Trends: Is More Better?

Some of us are still recovering from CTIA. In case you missed it, Greg Clayman of Twofones provides an excellent summary of CTIA with commentary on Mobile TV, Advertising, Search, Standards and much more. My CTIA roundup is here. Review of the best party by Shawn Conahan is here.

Views and Reviews

Ricky Cadden at SymbianGuru provides an update on N95.

Dennis at Wapreview, our host for #67 reviews AOL’s mobile portal

Zach Epstein reviews GSync by Psiloc.

Justin Oberman at Mopocket points to an interesting application for house hunting folks out there – Housefront SMS

Farooq Anjum at Anjum’s web provides an introduction to BREW.

Next Carnival is at Mobile Marketing & Spam hosted by Troy Norcross. Be sure to check it out. Until next time, Sayonara!

CTIA Wireless 2007 Roundup April 2, 2007

Posted by chetan in : 3G,AORTA,ARPU,Carriers,CTIA,Devices,Enterprise Mobility,European Wireless Market,Intellectual Property,International Trade,Japan Wireless Market,Mergers and Acquisitions,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Search,Mobile TV,Mobile Usability,Speech Recognition,US Wireless Market,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 5 comments



Orlando was the venue for CTIA Wireless 2007. Pre-show events include Mobile Entertainment Live (Billboard), day long seminars on Mobile Advertising and Emerging Technology. The main themes from the show were Mobile Advertising, NFC and Mobile Payments, Mobile TV, and WiMAX. This note summarizes the observations, interviews of executives, pre-show briefings, and commentary from the above shows.

First let’s do the numbers  Just before CTIA, M:Metrics released some numbers from their most recent survey. At the end of 2006, amongst the western nations, US had approximately 11% 3G penetration with Italy leading the way with 27%. Photo messaging is picking up reaching 15-30% penetration in most markets. CTIA also released their survey numbers. 233M subs, 76% penetration, and $8.7 billion for the latter six months of 2006, up 82% from $4.8 billion in the latter half of 2005. You probably already knew most of the above after reading our research note here. Instat reported that for the first time the handset replacement market was greater than the new purchase market. Replacement market is expected to take 80% share by 2011.

Keynotes  Attendees come to keynotes to be inspired, to get a sense of the direction of our industry. Unfortunately, some use the opportunity as a sales platform and rehash of press releases. What a waste of time and the platform. What an insult to the audience. I thought the best keynote came from EMI CEO Eric Nicoli, who first eloquently laid out the potential of the industry and then brought us back to reality by outlining the hurdles that we need to overcome to realize the potential. At the most basic level, it is all about simplicity, valuable functionality, and the right pricing. However, the highlight of the show was being in the same room (along with a few hundred others) with two former heads of state – Presidents Bush and Clinton.

Mobile Advertising  As expected, the hottest theme out of this CTIA was Mobile Advertising. The pre-event seminar on the subject was packed with discussions and viewpoints from all parts of the value chain. The involvement of agencies was refreshing. They can help guide the industry by articulating the needs of the brands and agencies in an overall advertising framework, develop standards, and not develop point solutions that won’t scale beyond MDF campaigns. But they are keenly aware of mobile and reported positive results from their tests for some big brands. David Rittenhouse from Ogilvy noted that Lenova experienced 188% lift (n=1495) in awareness from a mobile ad campaign. Third Screen reported up to 7.5% click rates on its network. Still missing were Internet players like Google and Yahoo. Vendor driven standardization processes are not very productive and take too long to become meaningful. Since, mobile advertising is the most buzzable topic in the industry right now; companies are adjusting their positioning to become mobile advertising players (akin to becoming Web 2.0 compliant). There was some debate whether off-deck impression is worth more than an on-deck impression. CPMs are a bit out of whack and will need to drop and stabilize. Premium CPMs range from $27-35 going as high as $60. User profile is of course the holy grail of mobile advertising. Visa demonstrated that mobile advertisements isn’t really limited to messaging, keyword auction, and banner ads, but also includes promotions that drop in your applications based on your transaction history. Can carriers stop them from running this downloadable app on the device? They are running some trials to find that out. Code/Image-based advertising is also picking up – Qcode, NFC, barcodes, pictures, etc as input to trigger content/ad delivery is making its way to the US.

Amongst the various enablers (that I was able to talk to and look at), The Hyperfactory has the most comprehensive view of the space and it shows in their campaigns. Not only cross carriers and cross handsets, but also cross modality and cross countries. Mobile Advertising needs to seamlessly fit in the overall digital strategy of a brand or else there will be too much friction. GSM association has taken some lead in helping define standards in this space. MMA is also updating its best practice guide though it needs to do more to expand its vision. Companies that made their presence felt were Third Screen Media, Ad Infuse, Millennial Media, Yahoo, Smaato, Mindmatics, Bango, Medio, JumpTap, Blyk, Admob, iLoopMobile, GreyStripe, Enpocket, and Rhythm.

Not to be outdone, Alcatel-Lucent and Motorola were also showing some future mobile advertising concepts that allow for cross medium advertising. For e.g. purchasing or activating advertising subsidized content on one device (like mobile) and viewing on another (like IPTV) and the experience is subsidized and interstitialized with advertisements.

Note: As some of you know, we have been involved in helping players in the value chain with mobile advertising strategy for the past two years. Well, we are now writing the book on it, literally! This book on Mobile Advertising is a collaboration with two brilliant co-authors and is going to be published by a major publisher. It will explore the key elements that will make mobile advertising tick. If you know of interesting case studies or people we should talk to, please do let us know. Check out our two part series on the subject published in Wireless World Magazine. Track the progress and become part of the conversation and the book at http://www.chetansharma.com/blog/category/mobile-advertising

Mobile TV  With Mediaflo’s launch, the discussion in the US has changed from unicast/multicast to broadcast. With Cingular and Verizon adopting Mediaflo, it is hard to see DVB-H’s future in the US. Spent some time with Dr. Kamil Grajski, Chairman of the FLO forum. FLO’s advantage comes from better channel switching time and slightly better spectrum efficiency. The goal is to pursue individual partnerships by geography that fuses spectrum, technology, and content. KDDI partnership is such an example. The quality is very impressive and the user experience raises the bar. With the introduction of clipcasting that enables some personalized content filtering on the device (e.g. Entire NASDAQ quotes are streamed but only your portfolio is displayed), broadcast can extract more value from the spectrum. Though Mediaflo has an edge, the future beyond the US shores is tough. Majority of Europe is going to go to DVB-H and similar standards. But, the potential customers are not only cellular operators but also include cable and satellite operators. Companies looking for Triple and Quad play strategies will have to come up with their mobile Broadcast strategy in the next couple of years. While Mobile TV has been in the headlines for some time, the penetration in the US remains quite low – around 2% and represents less than $350M revenue in 2006 (European trends are similar). For the opportunity to scale, pricing and business models will need to be adjusted to market realities. Mobile TV has been around in Japan and Korea for a longer duration and has reached critical mass penetration. Unicast becomes expensive if the usage gets into double digits because pricing pressure doesn’t allow for monetizing by the MB. Broadcast becomes the natural solution but it is limited by spectrum, less interactivity, and lack of handsets in the short-term. Clearly, hybrid models will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. For broadcast, it is about the spectrum first and the technology second.

Near Field Communication (NFC)  VISA has been running NFC trials around the country for some time with VISA credit cards (30K) and POS terminals (50K). The goal is to do NFC on the phone. VISA also released numbers from their NA survey (n=800) – 57% interested, 64% of Gen X/Y will consider switching carriers and credit card for mobile payment capability, by 5:1, consumers prefer to have charges on their credit card bill rather than their phone bill. The first generation of NFC phones is hitting the US market later this year. Kyocera demonstrated buying from a vending machine, downloading content, and doing internet transactions using an NFC-enabled prototype handset. It also had a biometric fingerprint sensor. Korea and Japanese market have been using phone as a wallet for some time (e.g. DoCoMo’s FeliCa) and it will be great to see such enhancements in Europe and North America. There is a demand for such solutions, Visa is providing leadership, and hopefully, the ecosystem will step up. Last year, in US, $7.2Trillion dollars worth of consumer financial transactions took place. Taking a small cut of this pie will be a big deal. Enabler to watch – Ecrio.

Biometrics  NTT DoCoMo introduced handset with biometric capability in 2003, we expect to see it introduced in the US in first half of 2008. AuthenTec has been dominating the market for both PC/laptops and mobile phones. Japan has reached about 10% penetration for biometric sensors in mobile devices. ROW is just getting started. HTC is introducing some devices (for the US market) with biometric sensors later this year.

Mobile Search  Google and Yahoo announced their next release of mobile/local search. Google’s attempts at mobile search reminds me of Microsoft’s early attempts to build an OS for mobile phones. I thought AskMeNow’s semantic search was pretty good though they are still working on indexing which can take a long time due to understanding content. With the recent purchases of BeVocal and TellMe, voice is getting its due attention. V-enable showed their local 411 app and Nuance talked about voice-enabled music search. Voice has become an integral part of any mobile search (and ad) strategy.

Interesting handsets  While the industry is waiting for the June launch of iPhone, several new concepts and phones emerged at the show. Hopefully, NA operators got inspired from the handsets available in Asia and will bring some of that experience here. Samsung launched its dual-faced Ultra. While, it is a first for the industry, the user experience left lot to be desired, the Sharp touch UI is confusing. DoCoMo had the best selection on display. Flipstart is launching a $2000 mobile device (UMPC form factor), which has full PC running on it. It does have some clever user experience enhancements that make the usability acceptable but I am not sure if the price point will hold in the market where you can find an equally powerful laptop for half the price.

User Interface  Apple’s iPhone has raised the bar on device user experience. Zenzui announced their UX technology (based on Microsoft IP) that takes us away from the boring menu-based navigation schemes. Punchcut showed what’s possible utilizing the idle screen. Flipstart had some clever UX enhancements that I hope can get integrated into other forms of computing. Biometric sensors also surprisingly prove to be a good navigation element, better than 5 key dial and even iPOD dial.

Simplicity  EMI’s Nicoli had emphasized on simplicity of applications and services. AT&T’s COO Randall Stephenson echoed similar sentiments. It is a no-brainer, right? So, why do we make things inherently complex and hard-to-use? Hasn’t Apple taught us enough? Ontela’s mobile imaging platform is following on Apple’s footsteps. The technology allows you to take the picture and store it on any other device or destination within 30-60 seconds. No user intervention. It just works.  

GYM is in the house  It was the first CTIA with Google and Yahoo having their own booths, announcing their arrival. Their presence was telling of the battles to come. Microsoft has been coming to the show for some time but primarily to show their devices and talk about enterprise (email) applications.

LBS and Telematics There were a number of firms talking about telematics or navigation on the phone or devices for your car. Navteq, TeleAtlas, TeleNav, Inrix, Pharos, Kore, deCarta, and many others displayed their wares. On the consumer side, navigation is getting embedded into Local search apps which are enhancing the user experience quite a bit. FindIt and Google Maps are two examples. TCS is working on a framework for LBS based mobile advertising that allows carriers and users to control location availability to applications, something I wrote about back in 2001. Sprint has raised the bar by opening the APIs for developers and loosening the pricing friction. GSM operators are awaiting the arrival of OMA compliant phones. European carriers are targeting Christmas 2007 to launch several OMA SUPL devices while US will see such devices from Cingular next year. The best navigation was from Churchill Navigation which gives you a bird’s eye view in a fun-interactive experience.

WiMax. Sprint showed some potential launch devices for their WiMax service. Initially, the focus is limited to data cards and UMPCs. There will be restrictions on data usage and the move to handset form factor devices is uncertain. Samsung showed video conferencing at 12fps and VoIP on WiMax devices (PDA form factor). Since Intel put a boat load of money into Clearwire and Sprint’s endorsement, WiMax industry has been surging ahead but long-term viability is still not certain, how fast will device pricing drop?                

China  While China can’t make up its mind on TD-SCDMA, Chinese manufacturers are increasingly competing with the big boys, the handset rollouts and infrastructure wins are a testament to that. They should just let go of their obsession with TD-SCDMA, there are plenty of opportunities for their manufacturers. Canada, Finland, Taiwan, Sweden, Spain, Ireland, Korea, and UK also had Intl pavilions.

The ecosystem friction  The mobile data ecosystem tension is bubbling up. It was highlighted in the first session of the conference – Jim Ryan (Cingular) vs. Larry Shapiro (Disney) well moderated by Tom Wheeler (past CTIA President). Carriers want control (some more than others) so that they can manage user experience and minimize customer support calls. Content companies want to bypass the carrier and go direct to the consumer. Things are improving but not at the pace everyone would like it to be. This debate is not going away. Perhaps, CTIA can demonstrate some leadership in kicking-off some content interoperability (and treat ad as content) initiatives.

Test equipment  Whether it is entertainment or enterprise, very little attention is given to testing and monitoring data applications and services. Keynote launched its on-demand platform for testing and monitoring for developers who for $500/day can test on live devices anywhere in the world. This service can significantly lower down the cost of procuring handsets and doing testing.

Coolest booth  In my travels around the world, in every major city, you can’t escape the massive ads from Samsung and LG. CTIA is no different. The plastered ads all over and the booth from these two Korean companies were clearly the pick of the show with LG edging out its arch-rival by creating a gigantic music player.

Misc. News.

Your comments are always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

US Wireless Data Market Update – 4Q06 and 2006 March 4, 2007

Posted by chetan in : 3G,AORTA,ARPU,BRIC,Carriers,CTIA,Devices,European Wireless Market,India,Indian Wireless Market,Intellectual Property,Japan Wireless Market,Mergers and Acquisitions,Messaging,Middleware,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Mobile TV,Mobile Usability,MVNO,Smart Phones,Speaking Engagements,US Wireless Market,WiMax,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 1 comment so far

US Wireless Data Market Update – 2006

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US Wireless Data Market update – 4Q06 and 2006

Global update (more details in our worldwide data market update coming out soon)

2007 – Early signs

Your comments are always welcome.

Chetan Sharma