jump to navigation

US Mobile Market Update Q4 2014 and 2014 February 23, 2015

Posted by chetan in : 4G, 4th Wave, 5G, AORTA, ARPU, Chetan Sharma Consulting, Connected Devices, Connected Intelligence Era, Devices, European Wireless Market, Fourth Wave, Internet of Things, IoE, IoT, LTE, Mobile Applications, Mobile Cloud Computing, Mobile Devices, Mobile Future Forward, Technology Cycles, The Golden Age of Mobile, US Wireless Market, Wi-Fi, Wireless Value Chain, Worldwide Wireless Market , add a comment

US Mobile Market Update Q4 2014 and 2014



The US mobile market continues to be the biggest market by revenue and 2014 was a key transition year for the industry. The overall market grew 21% to almost $400B. Voice revenues declined by 15%, messaging by 16%, and tablets by 4%. The biggest winners were the 4th wave/OTT services which grew by 92%. Access revenues increased by 32%, handsets by 11%, and wearables by 150%. Verizon, AT&T, and Apple were the top 3 players by revenue (from the US market).

Last Jan, we had estimated $108 Billion in mobile data revenues for the market and the revenues ended spot on at $108B making US the first market to surpass the $100B mark. We are forecasting that the mobile data service revenues will increase by 22% to $132 Billion in 2015. Verizon will become the first operator to generate more than $50B from data services in 2015.

Verizon became the second operator after China Mobile to cross the milestone of 100 Million postpaid subs. After acquiring lusacell and Nextel Mexico (still pending), AT&T became the biggest North American operator with over 131 million subs. In 2014, US also crossed the 350 million subscription mark.

The average mobile data consumption (cellular) crossed 2GB/mo in 2014. In the US, it took roughly 20 years to reach the 1GB/user/mo mark. However, the second GB mark has been reached in less than 4 quarters. An entire year’s worth of mobile data traffic in 2007 is now reached in less than 100 hours.

From 2010 to 2013, the data pricing declined by only single digits YoY. However, in 2014, the data pricing has plummeted by 77%. It is having an impact on the industry financials which might help clear the way to further M&A in the US market.

The intense competition amongst the operators meant a whopping 20% rise in OPEX QoQ and a 1% decline in CAPEX YoY. The income stayed flat while EBITDA grew modestly at 3%.

In our 4th series of papers, we had postulated for years that the 4th wave revenues will become bigger than any of the previous curves. This finally happened in 2014 in the US market with the revenues from the 4th wave applications and services built on top of the IP access layer surpassed both voice and data revenues. The operator share of the US mobile industry revenues fell below 50% for the first time since the birth of the industry.

Smartphone penetration increased to 75% and roughly 95% of the devices sold now are smartphones.

The Android OEM ecosystem suffered its first major profit decline in 2014 - the profits dropped precipitously by 44%. iOS revenues increased by 31%. The difference in profits between the two major ecosystems is now $33 Billion – the highest it has ever been.

Apple broke more records in a single quarter than most athletes break in their lifetime. The amount of revenues and profits generated by a rectangular screen sent everyone in a tizzy. To get a sense of the scale, consider this – Apple’s iPhone generated more revenue than revenues generated by entire portfolio of products from Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter combined. Add in Macs and Tablets and you can mix a dozen more companies in the mix. The laser focus on quality and the benefit of the brand loyalty and aspiration catapulted into the business stratosphere that few can even dream of reaching.

Apple also introduced two new products late last year – Watch and Apple Pay. While it is too early to figure out the overall impact of Apple Watch (it clearly will put some Swiss Watchmakers out of business), Apple Pay appears to be more disruptive. Apple’s classic approach of embracing the ecosystem and thinking end-to-end might finally disrupt the otherwise staid financial sector. Apple Pay is already seeing significant traction and the financial industry is nervously promoting the service. Rumors of Apple Car will keep media on its toes for the next few years.

4th wave services continue to grow at a very past face around the globe. At least 37 companies generated a billion dollar or more from 4th wave services in 2014 – a 311% jump from 2012.

The difference between Sprint and T-Mobile number of subs is less than a million now – the narrowest it has ever been. Like we suggested mid-last year, T-Mobile is likely to become the number three operator in a matter of weeks now. This is more or less just a symbolic event with the transfer of bragging rights.

T-Mobile accounted for over 40% of the overall net-adds for the year with Verizon coming in second at 30%. After having a lack-luster year in 2013, the operators doubled the net-adds in 2014 with connected devices driving most of the growth.

Race To The Bottom?

The mobile data traffic has been doubling YoY in the US. The consumption is clearly growing with the introduction of new devices, network upgrades, and application enhancements. Operators are seeing tremendous pressure on data pricing due to the competitive environment. EBITDA declined for the second straight quarter.

From 2010 to 2013, the data pricing declined by only single digits YoY. However, in the first 9 months of 2014, the data pricing has plummeted by 77%. It is having an impact on the industry financials which might help clear the way to further M&A in the US market.

Is Android in trouble?

Samsung suffered one of the biggest mobile revenue and profit declines in its history. As the dominant leader of the Android ecosystem, it is caught in the middle of two major trends that ironically enough Samsung had influenced. The bigger screen phone segment that Samsung seeded has become the fastest growing segment in smartphones. Apple following Samsung into the segment meant that it took away the single biggest differentiating factor and as such a serious impact on its high-end line. The lower end which yields higher volumes but much smaller ASP has attracted hordes of local developers in China, India, and Russia who have better logistics and operational advantage. Many of these players are becoming successful. To damage Samsung, they all don’t need to be successful, just enough to be in the market to sway the market. As such, Samsung has seen its share dwindle in the two biggest emerging markets.

Much of the current situation has been predictable for some time. While Samsung has ridden the smartphone wave masterfully, it hasn’t been able to build a platform moat, something that helps fundamentally differentiate its products in the sea of Android devices around the planet. They are not in a Blackberry or Nokia panic situation yet as some in the media have surmised. But, they need to figure a way out of the middle band. Unlike Nokia or Blackberry who were blinded by their success and ignorance, Samsung has shown it is a more nimble competitor. Samsung’s R&D and marketing is also second to none. Its diversified portfolio also helps in cushioning the drop in the phone segment. Historically, OEMs with such sharp revenue declines haven’t been able to arrest the decline. Can Samsung do it? Samsung is launching Galaxy 6 at MWC this weekend.

Given that Samsung controls most of Android ecosystem profits, the Android ecosystem suffered a 44% decline in profits. The woes of OEMs such as Sony, Motorola, and others also contributed to the decline. We can expect some of the Android OEMs leaving the device business altogether.

Operator M&A

In his classic book, “Competition in Telecommunications,” Nobel Laureate Jean Tirole wrote, “With digital technology, telecommunications, cable TV, broadcasting, and computers have become a single industry, which will be a critical element of our economies’ backbone. With the impending opening of competition, industrial restructuring is progressing at a fast pace.” The book was written almost 15 years ago. As I have written before, the computing and communications industries are merging into one and that collision is generating ripple effects some of which we are starting to understand (more on the Connected Intelligence Era trends here)

One of the implications of the 4th wave evolution is that there will be fewer mobile operators in the world. As we have argued in the papers, many of the smaller players just won’t be able to keep up and compete. AT&T acquired Mexican operator Iusacell (it also made the bid for Nextel Mexico) which made AT&T a clear leader in North America with almost 131 Million subscriptions. As we mentioned in our 4th wave series of papers, the number of operators will continue to shrink with fewer global operators who will seek to combine wireless and wireline assets to strengthen their moat. It is quite likely that US Cellular will be acquired in 2015.

Net-Neutrality Debates

After a blockbuster spectrum auction, FCC is looking to put its stamp on the future of the Internet by proposing net-neutrality rules later this week. President Obama decisively tilted FCC’s position on the subject. However, this is not a done deal yet. The legal and political apparatus is likely to react quite strongly to the ruling and we are in for a tough fight on this one. Other governments and regulators are also keenly watching the debate and the final ruling. Dish ended up acquiring a bulk of the spectrum wares. Is this a precursor of their wireless moves or was this just old-fashioned asset hoarding?

4th Wave Revenues

For the first time, US operators revealed some of their 4th wave (digital) services metrics publicly. Verizon reported $585 million in 2014 up 45% from a year ago. At the current run-rate, this will be a billion dollar business by 2016. AT&T reported 2.8M connected car connections and 140K home security connections. The connected car segment is clearly on its way to becoming a billion+ dollar business for AT&T. Connected cars accounted for 62% of the connected devices for AT&T.

Globally, 37 companies generated a billion dollar or more from 4th wave services in 2014 – a 311% jump from 2012.

The Upcoming 5G wars?

I started my career when 1G was all the rage. My first 4G project was back in 2002. By some measures, we are already behind on the 5G discussions. In general, it takes 7-10 years before the standards are finalized and then the network technology lasts for approximately 20 years before a market moves onto the next generation of technology. US led in the growth of 1G (AMPS, TACS) followed by Europe on 2G (GSM, CDMA). Japan took the leadership role with 3G (WCDMA, EVDO) and US wrestled it back on 4G (LTE). Japan and EU are determined to lead on 5G and have been making very public statements and R&D investments about their ambitions on 5G. Japan of course has a very clear goal of having 5G by Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Am sure some operator(s) somewhere will jump the gun and start calling LTE-A+ as 5G around 2017-18 or sooner. You can expect a lot of activities both in public and private on 5G as companies and governments try to figure out a way to claim the 5G leadership mantle.

We have a 5G paper coming out in March. You can read the summary here – 5G: The history of the future.

Apple Pay

Mobile Payments has long infatuated mankind. Many players with deep pockets have invested in the segment but in truth, the market was waiting for Apple to show up and show up it did with the launch of Apple Pay. In an ambitious orchestration of the financial supply chain, Apple introduced a simple payment proposition. The basic strategy is for commerce to flow through iOS. The institutions are even paying a share of the transaction to Apple which previous payment explorers are watching in utter disbelief. Ladies and Gentlemen, get ready for iTunes 2.0.

What to expect in the coming months?

2014 was a tremendous year for the mobile as it becomes omnipresence in every industry. We saw some massive moves, astounding acquisitions, and interesting strategic endeavors. 2015 promises to be an exciting year for the industry as well.

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

Against this backdrop, the analysis of the Q4 2014 and 2014 US wireless data market is:

Overall Industry Revenues

· The overall market grew 21% to almost $400B.

· Voice revenues declined by 15%, messaging by 16%, and tablets by 4%.

· The biggest winners were the 4th wave/OTT services which grew by 92%.

· Access revenues increased by 32%, handsets by 11%, and wearables by 150%.

Service Revenues

· The US mobile data services revenues in Q4 2014 increased 3% and crossed the $25B market for the first time.

· The mobile data services revenue crossed the $100B mark in mobile data services revenue to become the first country to generate $100B from mobile data services.

· Verizon and AT&T dominated the quarter accounting for 70% of the mobile data services revenue and had 68% of the subscription base.

· Verizon and AT&T are at #2 & #3 global mobile data revenue ranking respectively in Q4 2014. Sprint and T-Mobile also maintained their rankings in the top 10 global mobile data operators.


· The Overall ARPU fell by 2.57%. 

· Data contribution to the overall revenues is now at 60%.

· The postpaid ARPU continues to decline for all operators with AT&T and T-Mobile experiencing double digit losses for the year.


· The US market had the best net-add year in the last 7 years.

· The US operators added 20M new subscriptions with T-Mobile leading the pack at 40%.

· Verizon’s tablet net-adds accounted for almost 50% of the overall tablets that were added in Q4. Verizon has caught up with AT&T on the tablet front.

· T-Mobile’s postpaid continued to see the positive growth for the seventh straight quarter. It has recovered all its losses that began in Q3 2009 and is now growing in the positive territory.

Shared Data Plans

· Shared data plans launched by Verizon and AT&T have been quite successful. The attachment rates have increased tremendously over the course of 2013-14 with more consumers opting for cellular tablets and connected devices. 61% of postpaid accounts at Verizon are now on shared plans. For AT&T, the number is even higher at 70%.

· Some more granular data plans for tablets have also spurred interest as the cellular broadband is becoming available on demand vs. expensive on premise Wi-Fi solutions.

· 52% of AT&T’s postpaid accounts are on 10GB+ plans.

4th Wave Progress

· The number of players making $250M/quarter on mobile continues to increase rapidly and these aren’t your traditional wireless players. For example, Mobile is now contributing 69% (up from 30% in Q1 2013) to Facebook’s quarterly revenues. Latest addition to the club is Twitter which is now doing 88% in mobile (of the total advertising revenue) up from 60% in 2013. Even traditional players like Hertz, Sears, and Starbucks are generating meaningful revenues from mobile. There are now dozens of such players and the list is just growing. (for more discussion on the topic please see: “Mobile 4th Wave: Evolution of the Next Trillion Dollars”)

· In 2014, we are also seeing continued investments from the operators especially AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint in non-traditional segments like home security, healthcare, insurance, automotive, enterprise mobility, advertising, and security, and others. Collectively, this is already a multi-billion dollar business in the US.

· The cloud and security segments have also gained significant traction with incumbents as well as startups launching new initiatives and technologies.

· Verizon reported $585 million in 2014 up 45% from a year ago. At the current run-rate, this will be a billion dollar business by 2016.

· AT&T reported 2.8M connected car connections and 140K home security connections. The connected car segment is clearly on its way to becoming a billion+ dollar business for AT&T. Connected cars accounted for 62% of the connected devices for AT&T.

Connected Devices

· Connected devices (non-phones) accounted for almost 52% of the net-adds in Q4 2014. This means that while there is a healthy smartphone sales pipeline, it is for the existing subs and as such net-adds for the phone business is tapering off and we can expect that new net-adds will continue to be dominated by the connected devices segment.

· For AT&T, Connected cars started to form a significant base of the connected devices segment with 62% of the new connections in the segment coming from cars.


· Smartphones continued to be sold at a brisk pace accounting almost 95% of the devices sold in Q4 2014. Within the next two years, the feature phone category will practically be extinct in the US market.

· The smartphone penetration in the US is now at 75%.

· After ceding the lead to Android for the last three straight quarters, iOS roared back to reclaim the lead with 54% share of the smartphones sold. For the year though, Android edged out iOS.

· Verizon continues to sell more LTE smartphones as its LTE sub tally rose to 67M making it the leading LTE operator in the world (this year China Mobile will overtake Verizon to become the number 1 LTE operator by subscriptions). Other three operators are also deep into their LTE deployments. Verizon reported that 84% of its total data traffic is on the LTE network now, clearly the fastest technology transitions we have seen in the US wireless industry.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, twitter feeds, future research reports, articles, and our annual thought-leadership summit – Mobile Future Forward. The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in May 2015.

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

Mobile Breakfast Series – Dallas – LTE & Beyond: The future of mobile networks April 3, 2013

Posted by chetan in : 4G, 4th Wave, LTE, Mobile Breakfast Series, US Wireless Market, Wireless Value Chain, Worldwide Wireless Market , add a comment


We are pleased to announce Mobile Breakfast Series is coming to Dallas for the first time. Below are some details about the program:

Mobile Breakfast Series - Excellent Speakers. Invaluable Insights. Peerless Networking.

Mobile Breakfast Series is a quarterly event that brings together thought leaders and visionaries from the global mobile industry to interact and share ideas, insights, and best practices with the entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and everyone who is passionate about mobile. We dive into the most important issues and opportunities in front of our industry with the executives who are making things happen.

Date: June 25th, 2013

Time: 7:30-11am. 7:30am – Registration, 8:30am – Discussion Begins, 10:00am - Networking

Venue: Tower Club, 1601 Elm Street, Thanksgiving Tower, 48th Floor, Dallas, TX 75201

Registration is open now.

Topic: LTE and Beyond – The future of mobile networks

US is leading the globe in LTE deployment. In fact, most of the cutting-edge engineering with mobile networks is happening here with all major operators deploying LTE. What’s next for mobile networks? How will they evolve over the course of the next decade? Will we be able to keep ahead of the insatiable consumer demand for more? We will have an in-depth discussion with our distinguished speakers.


Fireside Chat:

Kris Rinne, Senior Vice President – Network Technologies, AT&T Labs

Vish Nandlall, Chief Technology Officer & Head of Strategy, Ericsson

Chetan Sharma, President, Chetan Sharma Consulting (moderator)

Kris Rinne, SVP – Network Technologies, AT&T Labs

Kris Rinne is responsible for network architecture, service platforms, radio access roadmap and initial implementation, wireless device requirements and certification, network platforms, network performance analysis, and industry standards development at AT&T. Previously, Rinne served as Cingular’s chief technology officer with similar responsibilities. She earlier served as vice president—Technology and Product Realization, responsible for new product development from a technology standpoint, handset certification, and infrastructure vendor coordination. Prior to joining Cingular, she was vice president—Technology Strategy for SBC Wireless, responsible for new product development and network operations support. She has worked for Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems as managing director—Operations. In 2011, Kris was named as “The Most Influential Woman in Wireless” by Fierce Wireless and was a member of the Global Telecom Business Power 100 list of the most powerful telecom executives.

Vish Nandlall, CTO and Head of Strategy, Ericsson

Vish Nandlall is Head of Strategy, Marketing and Chief Technology Officer for Ericsson’s North American region. He is responsible for identifying Ericsson’s long-term vision, defining the overall company strategy, and driving business value creation for Ericsson’s customers in North America. Nandlall joined Ericsson in 2010, most recently serving as Chief Technical Officer for the company’s AT&T Customer Unit. He previously served as CTO of Extreme Networks and CTO and distinguished member of technical staff for Nortel Carrier Networks. Nandlall has led architecture and standards direction for product portfolios ranging from GSM, CDMA, WiMAX, LTE, metro DWDM, carrier routing and switching, and carrier VoIP portfolios. His recent areas of research include M2M, augmented reality, and mobile virtualization.

Mobile Breakfast Series – June Events March 26, 2013

Posted by chetan in : HTML5, LTE, Mobile Breakfast Series, Mobile Future Forward, Wireless Value Chain, Worldwide Wireless Market , add a comment


It was awesome to see so many of you at the Mobile Breakfast Series Event last week. For those of you who couldn’t make it, here is the summary.

We also announced the date for our Mobile Future Forward program – Sept 10th in Seattle. Stay tuned for some really exciting announcements regarding speakers and the program.

Also pleased to announce the next two breakfast series events.

June 11th – Seattle – HTML5 – Is it really disruptive?

HTML5 has been talked about for a long time as the most disruptive force for mobile applications since the Apple Appstore was launched 5 years ago. But, can it really change the industry dynamics? How do you solve the reach problem for the developers? Many interesting initiatives in 2013 like Firefox OS but will they make a difference? How do developers view HTML5? We will take the pulse of the industry and ask the tough questions.

Hank Skorny, Vice President and GM – Consumer Software, Intel

June 25th – Dallas – LTE and Beyond – The Future of Mobile Networks

US is leading the globe in LTE deployment. In fact, most of the cutting-edge engineering with mobile networks is happening here with all major operators deploying LTE. What’s next for mobile networks? How will they evolve over the course of the next decade? Will we be able to keep ahead of the insatiable consumer demand for more?

Kris Rinne, Senior Vice President, Architecture and Network Planning, AT&T

Vish Nandlall, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Strategy, Ericsson

.. more speakers to be announced.

Registration is open now. First come, first served.

If you have any burning questions or any feedback, please feel free to send us a note.

Have a great spring and we will see you soon.


Mobile World Congress 2013 Recap March 6, 2013

Posted by chetan in : 4G, AORTA, Chetan Sharma Consulting, European Wireless Market, LTE, Mobile World Congress, US Wireless Market, Wireless Value Chain, Worldwide Wireless Market , 6 comments

“Welcome to Spain, Thank you for your business,” remarked the immigration officer and thus started my yearly pilgrimage to the grand slam of mobile – The Mobile World Congress 2013. It is truly a global event with participants from virtually all countries looking to do business, learn a thing or two, and ponder over what the year will bring forth. The show moved to a new venue which made the logistics work much better for attendees and exhibitors but the venue lost its charm and character. We used this opportunity to feel the pulse of the industry and understand where things are headed. This note summarizes our observations from the show.

While there was no blockbuster announcements or products that will knock your socks off, several interesting trends emerged that will keep the industry exciting to watch in 2013.

The perennial search for the #3 ecosystem continues: Windows sales have disappointed thus far, Blackberry has launched new devices but hasn’t quite hit the mark. So, while consumers seem perfectly happy with iOS and Android, industry’s desire to have a third robust ecosystem is palpable. The biggest announcement in that regard was from Firefox OS and in a matter of 12 months, it has not only forged a strong alliance with operators, it is actually getting ready to ship phones. It is going to be targeting the low-end of the market which is a smart strategy but a lot depends on the range of price points of the devices and how quickly it can attract the developer ecosystem. Given that Android device price points are hovering around $50 and it is a mature ecosystem with great developer reach and support, it will be challenging to convince consumers to go the Firefox route. However, if the price points are attractive enough, with the distribution power of some key operators, we could see some early traction. Ubuntu, Jolla, and Tizen were also vying for attention.

LTE everywhere: LTE deployment is growing at a very fast pace. The US market is ahead of the curve with almost national footprint from Verizon followed by substantial coverage from the remaining three operators. Elsewhere, operators are gearing for deployment once some of the spectrum issues/auctions are sorted out.

The 4th Wave has arrived: Last year, we put forth a framework for future mobile industry revenues in our 4th wave paper. Since then, the framework has been embraced by many leading operators around the globe. It was good to hear operators talking more about services rather than data plans. Several areas were discussed by the leading tier 1 operators such as health, retail, education, cloud, M2M, automobile, enterprise, security, connected living, home security, commerce, identity and privacy, big data and analytics. Operators who are able to steer their giant organizations to focus on services will be able to survive the commoditization of access. We will have more say on the subject later this year.

Yo OTT, luego existo: which is Spanish for “I OTT, therefore I am” To be a player in the digital world, one has to be an OTT provider for communications and beyond. The interesting dichotomy of the communications OTT business is that very few will survive. The end state of a majority of them (if not all) is either an M&A with a telco or an Internet player or they run out of cash. The new breed of OTTs has forced the lumbering giants to think different about their customers and their markets.

Mobile Broadband, Cloud, and Apps: The troika of broadband network access, the cloud infrastructure and the applications are creating a sea change in the enterprise, especially the SMB segment. It is also changing how developers see the enterprise segment as the opportunity migrates from windows to iOS and Android. We conducted some in-depth research in the space and will have more to share later this year. Our Mobile Breakfast Series later this month will be dealing with the topic of Cloud and SDN in more detail.

Redefining Monopoly: The mobile and internet worlds have collided but the regulatory regimes haven’t changed. European operators seemed to indicate that it is time to reassess what a monopoly really means and the rules should apply to all layers of the ecosystem stack and that means devices and OSs as well.

Device Launches: All major OEMs are following the Apple playbook as far as the device announcements are concerned. To garner media attention, it is best to announce the “hero” devices away from major shows. Just like CES earlier this year, MWC lacked any big device announcements. Nokia announced mid-low tier devices to expand its portfolio that will help it in unit sales. ZTE, Huawei, LG, Asus, NEC, Sony, HTC, HP, Asus, Acer, Lenovo all had new devices to display but media’s eyes are set on Samsung’s Galaxy release later this month.

Local OEMs: Traditional OEMs are facing some healthy competition from new entrants in local markets. Players like Fly and Yotaphone in Russia are giving the veterans a run for their money. By both innovating with new features but also by customizing the devices for the local market (e.g. bigger battery that last 3 days), they are creating their own niche. After gaining good market share in Russia, Fly is expanding into other markets.

Connected Cars: When the biggest operator by revenue announces a deal with the biggest car manufacturer, people take notice. GM and AT&T announced LTE cars by 2015 which will pretty much force the entire auto industry to provide broadband connectivity in a hurry. However, the auto industry has misplaced expectations on apps and any incremental revenue they might be able to harness from them.

Samsung Knox, Blackberry – can you hear me now: Android is probably the most insecure mobile platform out there. Blackberry has long been the gold standard, iOS has improved, Windows has security features built in but security has always been a step-child of Android. Samsung’s Knox announcement elevates Samsung’s role in the mobile enterprise and to some extent takes over some of the development capability of Android that are squarely aimed at Blackberry. The container security feature set with MDM integration is well thought out and opens up the mobile enterprise market for Samsung especially in North America and Western Europe.

Spectrum and Regulations: While spectrum was a universal issue with the operators, more is better, European operators were particularly vocal about the state of the regulatory affairs on the continent. Regulators, they complained, are killing the industry by cutting of revenue opportunities, are fostering too much competition, too much taxation, and too involved in the operations of the operators. This is leading to declining revenues and turmoil at the operators. There might be some unintended consequences of weakening operators and regulators will have to grapple with some interesting questions that a free market economy will pose in the coming days.

TU Go – Take your phone number everywhere: In our opinion, Telefonica has done the best job of dealing with the digital world in putting forth an org structure that can crank out applications and services at Internet speed. TU Go is a new service (launched in UK) that allows users to take their phone number to any supported device and use it for calling and texting – number in the cloud at its best.

NFC is dead, Long Live NFC: Vodafone CEO’s frank admission that he doesn’t expect to make much money from NFC gave the audience a bit of a pause. Several NFC initiatives have floundered without clear goals or vision. Instead of working together, the industry has remained fragmented and thus the lack of scale has hampered progress. For too long, the industry has focused on payments but the opportunity lies in the engagement with the customer. For better or for worse, the financial industry has sequestered its commission for the foreseeable future. We saw some clever NFC implementations to drive consumer engagement and commerce in retail environments, primarily in Europe.

Consolidation looms: The question that is on everyone’s mind but was hardly discussed at the show was the coming onslaught of consolidation at virtually all layers of the ecosystem.

Developing Markets: Connecting the next billion was a recurring theme. The smartphone penetration in the developing world is in the single digits. More than that, introducing consumers to a computing platform for the first time is an exciting opportunity. Creating services that are tailored to the local environment remains an opportunity that can have a profound impact on society. Our own work with the UN/ITU has shown the transformative role of mobile in almost every walk of life. The device unit growth is coming from the developing markets and as they get connected, the world becomes flatter, and the competitive dynamics in a globalizing world will create for some interesting policy and political battles.

M2M and Internet of Things: As we wrote in our book “Wireless Data Services” back in 2004, the connectivity is becoming pervasive. The module costs are coming down fast and the desire to measure and track every number that is important in our lives is creating a massive opportunity. However, privacy, battery life, environment, security remain key issues that need to be tackled.

Identity as a business opportunity: In a digital world where access to information and resources depend on verification of your identity, the guards and keepers of the identity information have a big role to play. As such, “identity” management is emerging as an opportunity that can be monetized. In the online world, Facebook has become the dominant way to integrate apps and services. In the mobile world, operators can play a significant role in authentication and verification. Will the two worlds collide? Fasten your seat belts.

The Post PC world: As an experiment, for the MWC trip, I carried just the Nexus 7 tablet and an iPhone. I felt liberated. In the past, for day trips, I have relied just on iPad/iPhone for taking care of my computing needs. For this trip, I wanted something that I can carry in jacket pocket. Nexus was good enough for taking simple notes, email, browser and even some phone calls. I could easily switch back-and-forth between the tablet and the phone, and the combined battery life lasted the whole day.

The Miscellaneous:

· Google’s absence from the show puzzled many

· The enthusiasm for RCS/Joyn seems to have subsided as reality sets in

· Nokia is broadening the reach of its HERE platform to other operating systems

· AT&T/Ericsson showed WebRTC demo

· Facebook announced messaging partnerships with operators in developing countries

· Small cells remained a hot topic though seen more of a compliment for the macro network

· Signaling traffic continues to grow at a faster pace than the data traffic as more LTE devices come on the network

· Qualcomm launched RF360 solution to deal with frequency band fragmentation which is serious problem for LTE roaming

· Yotaphone with its dual screen (front and back) and NEC Medias with its stacked up screens had something fresh to offer in the devices space when 99% of the devices look the same

· Virtualization is the new black in mobile networks

Best booth: Ericsson’s networked world theme was well thought-out and provided a unique exploratory view of the opportunities and technology evolution. A close second – Connected City.

Best party: There won’t be an MWC without the bevy of parties every night. Qualcomm again stole the show with the jam-packed confluence of the mobile elite.

US Mobile Data Market Update Q3 2012 November 12, 2012

Posted by chetan in : 3G, 4G, AORTA, ARPU, Applications, Infrastructure, LTE, M&A, Mergers and Acquisitions, Messaging, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Applications, Mobile Cloud Computing, Mobile Commerce, Mobile Ecosystem, Mobile Future Forward, Mobile OEMs, Mobile Operators, Mobile Payments, Mobile Traffic, Privacy, Security, US Wireless Market, Wireless Value Chain, Worldwide Wireless Market , 1 comment so far

US Mobile Data Market Update Q3 2012





The US mobile data market grew 3% Q/Q and 17% Y/Y to reach $19.9B in Q3 2012. Data is now almost 43% of the US mobile industry service revenues. For the year 2012, the market is on track for mobile data revenues in the US market to reach our initial estimate of $80 billion.

Largely due to the strong postpaid performance by Verizon, the US operators added a net of 2.4M new subscribers. Sprint and T-Mobile saw further postpaid declines. For T-Mobile, Q3 marked the nine straight quarters of postpaid losses.

The quarter also saw a couple of block-buster operator M&As that took many in the industry by surprise. T-Mobile found a soul mate in MetroPCS while Softbank showed up at the altar for Sprint. Once the mergers are executed, Sprint is likely to emerge as the stronger of the two.

The two horse OS race got a new participant entry last month – Windows 8. Microsoft and its partners launched a worldwide campaign for a chance to compete. Microsoft also made a splash with the first computing device in its history – Surface. Both got a mixed reception from the market. We will find out how consumers will react in the Q4 numbers. Of all the OEMs, Q4 will be the most critical for Nokia who is running out of runway in its turnaround effort.

Despite setbacks in the IP battles, Samsung continued its march of being the undisputed unit leader in mobile device space. After displacing Nokia in Q1 2012, it continued to dominate in units shipped in Q3 2012. However, Apple dominates both the smartphone revenues and more importantly just crushes the competition on device profits. It has only 6% of the global unit shipment share but over 70% profit share. In tablets, Apple completely dominates the landscape in both shipments and revenue. In fact, 95% of the profits in the tablet segment go to Apple with the remaining ecosystem fighting for the crumbs. Apple has the complete stronghold on the supply chain and has sucked out the oxygen from the OEM world.

Amazon hasn’t been shy about its ambitions in the mobile space. While the world awaits an Amazon smartphone, the company launched a slew of tablets to compete primarily with Google though its eyes are on Apple. Apple also launched iPad mini a mid-tier tablet to ward of threats coming from the bottom tier of the market.

As we mentioned it in our last update, smartphones are now past the 50% mark in the US and continue to sell at a brisk pace accounting for over 75% of the devices sold in Q3 2012.

While the US penetration of smartphones is over 50% as we reported last quarter, the 50% of the sub base is concentrated in only 30% of the households thus leaving plenty of growth left in the marketplace.

In terms of Y/Y growth, Connected Devices segment grew 19%, Prepaid 10%, Wholesale 6%, and Postpaid was flat. The connected devices segment picked up some growth after two straight quarters of sub-5% performance growth (Q/Q).

Verizon and AT&T maintained their top positions in the global rankings by mobile data revenues. A survey of the entire ecosystem shows that the US companies dominate the top 5 rankings of profit share. China Mobile leads the industry with Apple, Verizon, AT&T, and NTT DoCoMo completing the rankings.

Postpaid Doldrums and evolution of metrics – ARPU to ARPA to AMPA

The US market has added roughly 400K postpaid subs in the last two quarters. Verizon has added 2.4M, AT&T 400K, and Sprint and T-Mobile have lost a million each. Clearly, Verizon’s performance is far superior to its competitor and its relentless focus on postpaid has yielded significant benefits. Typically, the postpaid ARPU is roughly 2-3 times that of a prepaid subscriber. So, while other operators have been adding prepaid subs, the improvement to the bottom line has been tepid especially for Sprint and T-Mobile. Sprint’s losses have been primarily due to the bleeding of the Nextel customers. The iDEN network should turn off sometime next year and the continuous loss of overall postpaid subs might stop. T-Mobile faces a deeper challenge. Its net-revenue has declined in every quarter since Q4 2008, which is 15 straight quarters of revenue decline. In fact, its current revenue levels is at the Q2 2006 levels – that was six years ago. Though the company has done a terrific job upgrading the network to HSPA+ and doing blocking and tackling until it upgrades to LTE to come at par with its peers, the continuous bleeding of the postpaid subs needs a new strategy. Metro PCS helps gain new subs and spectrum but doesn’t help with postpaid. In fact, one can expect that the churn will rise as consumers migrate from Metro to T-Mobile. 2013 will be a critical transition year for the company as it tries to compete with its larger competitors. Just being a “value” provider is the race to the bottom.

We have been advocating shared data plans to create more consumer demand for over two years. When I talked to CNBC earlier this year (Jan), I said that in all likelihood the family data plans will be introduced in the US market in 2012. I discussed this more with Bloomberg and USA Today and suggested that most likely Verizon will launch them first. Verizon and AT&T launched the shared data plans this summer with AT&T getting the benefit of launching it second. New types of plans also evolved the decades-old operator metric of ARPU to ARPA (Average Revenue Per Account) given that we are seeing a strong influx of multiple devices per individual/household. Verizon was first to transition and we expect others might introduce new matrices to measure progress and performance. AMPA (Average Margin Per Account) will also become an important metric in the coming days, first internally, and then for the markets.

Messaging Decline

Most western markets have seen the net revenue in the messaging segment decline. The US market has resisted the decline thus far. In Q3 2012, for the first time, there was a decline in both the total number of messages as well as the total messaging revenue in the market. It might be early to say if the decline has begun or the market segment will sputter along before the decline takes place. As we had outlined in our fourth wave paper, once the market segment reaches the 70-90% penetration mark, the decline begins and we might be seeing the start of the decline in messaging revenue. The decline is primarily due to the rise in IP messaging and operators have been slow to evolve their strategies in the segment.

Operator’s Dilemma (And Opportunity): The Fourth Wave

In our paper “Operator’s Dilemma (and opportunity): The Fourth Wave” earlier this year, I proposed that we need a new framework to think about the next generation of revenue opportunities. The fourth curve opportunities are massive but require a different skillset and strategic approach that the past three curves. We are starting to see operators becoming more focused and aggressive. It is being widely adopted in the operator community around the world and some operators have started to break out the 4th wave revenues in their financials. We will have more discussion about how things are shaping up in future research papers.

AT&T has been better prepared in the US market and has embraced the ride on the fourth curve. It is investing in the areas of Digital Life, Mobile Premise Solutions, Mobile Payments, and Connected Vehicles. We discussed the subject at length in our recently concluded annual thought-leadership summit – Mobile Future Forward.

Operator M&A – The Rule of Three Strikes Back

Just when you thought the prospects of any major operator M&A slowed down due to the impending US election, T-Mobile announced its acquisition of Metro PCS giving it more spectrum, access to public markets, a good chunk of subscriber base to become a more competitive number 4. Sprint and Softbank followed the announcement with an absolutely brilliant maneuver. Sun Tzu would have been proud. It provides Sprint access to capital, economies of scale, and becomes a much stronger number 3, and a global telecom player with scale and ambition. There have been some interesting twists and turns but as we have stated before, the US market competitive equilibrium will be complete when Sprint and T-Mobile get together at some point down the road.As outlined in our research paper on the subject, market forces find their way to get to 3 dominant operators that compete for attention and revenues, rest becomes noise. While the regulators might scoff at the idea, the inevitable market forces will find their way around.

Connected Devices

In Q3 2012, we released some research around connected devices. If we just look at the active connected devices which can connect to the Internet directly either by wireless or wired means, either using cellular or WLAN, the total number of connected devices in the globe just crossed the 10 billion mark which means that the connected device to human ratio is now 1.3.

More details available here.

Device ecosystem

Windows 8 arrival – Sept was a big month in Microsoft’s attempt to regain its lost mobile decade. It went from a dominant position to virtually zilch coinciding with the remarkable ascend of iOS and Android. To make any device sell – one needs good and competitive device, distribution channel and marketing muscle, and brand loyalty. I think Windows 8 is genuinely good, is different, and for the first time can stand with its peers (obviously it needs to build a robust apps portfolio and a stronger developer ecosystem).

In the past, while operators, OEMs, and Microsoft announced significant advertising spend, it had almost negligible impact on sales. The actual $ amount spend was tepid, operators didn’t want to be guinea pigs just to prop up a third ecosystem. With Windows 8, things might get better. We can see many more awareness campaigns, more OEMs are launching some quality devices, and operators are warming up to the idea as well. The brand loyalty index for Microsoft Mobile is fairly low and it will take a heavy lift and a few billion dollars of advertising spend to move the needle. The good news is that the devices are shipping and it is not thanksgiving yet.

However, Nokia, once propped at every Windows Phone rally isn’t getting any special love from Microsoft anymore (in public) and it has become one of the many OEMs on the conveyer belt. Its ability to differentiate itself enough in Q4 will decide its 2013.

Last week, Qualcomm eclipsed Intel in market cap marking another milestone in the progression of the mobile ecosystem.

Surface, mini, and the tablet market

Apple launched the iPad mini for some of the same principles that Microsoft launched Surface. It is better to be cannibalized by self than by the enemy. Microsoft saw the notebook market shrink and needed a product to stem the bleeding while Apple saw Amazon and Google attack the bottom tier with a different model that poses a credible threat. Tablet market is indeed fundamentally altering computing in many ways. The changing landscape of computing also has impact on the ecosystem and the application development environment. Developers flock to platform reach, ease of access to the marketplace, and the basic economics of a viable business model. Windows a percentage of computing platform is shrinking which threats not only the platform but also Microsoft’s other software franchises. Surface is classic blocking and tackling to provide a jolt to the shifting ecosystem. With iPad mini, Apple is attempting to lock the mid-top tier of the tablet market and daring its competitors to just play in the bottom tier that leaves no profit on the hardware and revenue stream from services for a very select few.

Apple is getting a lot of grief for its maps app. While the strategic decision to take control of a key application was spot on, it faltered on communications. The half-baked endeavor was nowhere close to being the “best mapping app.”

Infrastructure segment faces a tough road ahead

The infrastructure segment of the wireless industry is facing turbulent and interesting times. The business model for many vendors hasn’t evolved much in the last few years and some of the disruptive forces are bound to have a deep impact on the segment. ALU is facing serious headwinds and will need to figure out its strategic options going forward. Ericsson’s margins are under pressure but more interestingly its services and support revenue exceeded its hardware revenue for the first time. Huawei and ZTE reported decline in revenues but they are making gains in the infrastructure markets outside US and in handsets in the US market. Until Premier Xi Jinping and President Obama sort out their geopolitical differences, the Chinese vendors remain shutout of the US infrastructure market.

What to expect in the coming months?

All this has setup an absolutely fascinating 2013 in the communication/computing industry. Convergence is everywhere and is leading to a fundamental reset of the value chains and ecosystems. Players who firmly attach themselves to the 4th wave will reap benefits while the ones who miss it will see their fortunes dwindle.

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

Against this backdrop, the analysis of the Q3 2012 US wireless data market is:

Service Revenues

· The US Wireless data service revenues grew 3% Q/Q and 17% Y/Y to $19.9B in Q3 2012. For the year 2012, we are forecasting that mobile data revenues in the US market will reach $80 billion.



Applications and Services


Mobile Data Growth

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, twitter feeds, future research reports, and articles. The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in Feb 2013. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in Mar 2013.

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

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

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

US Wireless Market Update Q4 2011 and 2011




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

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

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

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

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

The Post-PC Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mobile Data Growth – The Gigabyte Generation

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

Mobile Patents Landscape

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

Connected Universe, Monetizing Opportunities

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

What to expect in the coming months?

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

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

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

Service Revenues



Applications and Services


Mobile Data Growth

Global Update

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

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

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

Mobile World Congress 2012 Recap March 6, 2012

Posted by chetan in : 3G, 4G, AORTA, Applications, Connected Devices, LTE, MWC, Mobile Cloud Computing, Mobile Commerce, Mobile Content, Mobile Ecosystem, Mobile Future Forward, Mobile Payments, Mobile World Congress, US Wireless Market, WiMax, Wireless Value Chain, Worldwide Wireless Market , add a comment

Mobile World Congress 2012 Recap

The mobile industry had its biggest industry show last week in Barcelona. Going by the attendee numbers, the global economy seems to have rebounded though riots on the streets indicated tough time for Spain ahead. While there weren’t any blockbuster announcements, there was plenty to chew on. LTE, Connected Devices, Mobile Commerce, Privacy, WiFi offload, small cells, platform wars, mobile money, RCS, Connected Home, NFC, Cloud, and HTML5 had their share of debates and discussions. This note summarizes my observations from the show.

China passes the 1B mark – As we noted in our research piece last month “A Tale of Two Mobile Markets – China and India,” China crossed the 1B subscription mark this past weekend (Economist did a piece based on our research as well). In the last ten years, China has become the 2nd largest economy in the world behind the US while India which crossed the 900M mark last month is edging past Japan to be the #3. Given that mobile will have a central role in the ICT evolution of global markets and economies, what happens in the mobile markets of China and India will influence rest of the world.

Convergence of three screens – One of the fascinating trend is the convergence of the desktop, tablets, and smartphones at the OS/Apps layer with Apple, Microsoft, and Google being the three major pillars. Each has its strength in a given segment though Apple has the most mindshare across all three. Microsoft dominates the desktop world with over 90% share, Apple dominates the tablet world with over 60% share and runs a close second to Google on the smartphone segment. As I mentioned to the New York Times, this has significant implications on commerce, distribution, and life time value of the customer.

Operators vs. OTT – Round 2 - Mobile World Congress Keynotes started with two of the most prominent mobile operators proclaiming that the industry has significant challenges in the form of OTT providers commoditizing their revenue streams without any significant investment of their own into the network. Both Franco Bernabe, Chairman and CEO of Telecom Italia and Li Yue, President of China Mobile painted a gloomy picture and how operators need to focus on fundamentals if they were to survive the ever growing pressure on the margins. Some like KPN and SMART are seeing deterioration of their business fundamentals. However, there are some good case studies of success as discussed in my GigaOM column. I also discussed the subject in my paper released last month “Mobile Internet 3.0: How Operators can become service innovators and drive profitability” A number of operators announced their support for Joyn – the face of RCS services. The Operator/OTT story will be one of the most fascinating ones to watch in the coming months.

Mobile payments and commerce – There is significant activity in the mobile payments space but activity shouldn’t be confused for progress. Number of announcements with actual product offerings or roadmap is limited. There are some interesting case studies that are emerging however, like the one in Czech Republic where operators are collaborating with the banks to lower the commission and share the proceeds. That’s the primary way the operator model is going to work. Financial guys have protected their turf very well. And now retailers are forming their union. There has been too much focus on NFC payments rather than NFC as a platform for doing other things besides payments. As I said to the New York Times, “It will take a long time.”

Mobile Cloud – The discussion of Mobile Cloud has moved to Smart Cloud. From devices to the network to the apps, all elements of the chain are looking for the cloud to drive efficiencies in cost and performance.

Mobile Security – Mobile Security has emerged as one of the key opportunity areas for the ecosystem. Given that mobile devices are multiplying like gremlins, it is time to reign in the security. Both consumers and enterprise customers will benefit from a safety net that can protect customers from loss of data, viruses, targeted attacks, and malware. You can expect a number of offerings in this space over the course of this year.

Intel is serious about Mobile – Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel said at the launch event that they are introducing mobile technology at twice the pace of Moore’s law and is a clear statement that Intel is serious about mobile. Intel announced Orange, Lava, ZTE, and Visa as their new partners (in addition to previously announced Motorola and Lenovo) for their mobile chipset platform (smartphones and tablets). While the industry watchers are waiting for one of the big shoe to drop (the likes of Samsung, HTC, Nokia), Intel is making steady progress and the devices are blazing fast especially for 1080p video. Partners are all looking for mass-market devices (read sub-$50 after subsidy) within the next 2-4 months.

Managing Signaling traffic – While the data capacity issues get discussed a lot, signaling traffic and the problems they cause don’t get the same treatment. However, it is very clear that management of signaling traffic will remain quite important. Many of the applications are atrocious when it comes to signaling efficiency for e.g. I saw one of the mapping apps at Procera’s booth which requested connection for every single tile on the map, every time the map was rendered, so one map view could generate over a dozen signaling requests. So far, a lot of attention has been on policy management of data traffic, we better start paying attention to policy management of signaling traffic.

LTE/WiFi – Infrastructure providers and operators are looking to tighten the bond between LTE and WiFi such that the traffic can be policy managed at a granular level by application type so that based on the real-time traffic conditions, traffic can be optimized and routed accordingly.  Alcatel-Lucent with its LightRadio technology and SK Telecom were some of the players demoing the concept.

Traffic Onloading – Most vendors and operators talk about traffic offloading, but Wim Sweldens, President of Alcatel-Lucent Wireless division had much to say about traffic onloading. Even at the show, WiFi offload was being discussed along with LTE in the same sentence. With traffic, operators are also offloading the customer, he said – exposing the customer to potential security problems and perhaps loss of revenue opportunities during that session. With Light Radio WiFi®, operators will be able to more intelligently onboard the customer to their network and provide the same level of service and security as they do with their cellular network. Wim suggested that this is a good marriage between the radio and the IP world to give the best to customer while preserving the value for the operators. My discussion with Wim in this GigaOM column has more details. I will have more research coming out on the subject later in the year.

GAMAF moves - While Eric Schmidt will argue Microsoft isn’t in the mix; the platform world in mobile revolves around the furious five – GAMAF. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. Amongst the five, Google had the biggest presence at the show while Apple and Amazon were just there to scout talent, deals, and competition. Amazon and Facebook lack an OS to go with their ambitions and are pinning their hopes on HTML5. Amazon has thus far used Google’s efforts to its advantage and done a better job in some areas. MWC12 was coming out party for Facebook Mobile. Microsoft is making steady progress with 8 and hoping that it will prove to be its lucky number.

Empire strikes back – Microsoft and Nokia have been making steady progress in their quest to regain market share that stands decimated by previous strategic errors. While it is going to take unforeseen amount of time to make up for the lost market value, Nokia’s product line looks good, operators seem to provide a helping hand in creating the third viable ecosystem. Microsoft has been scrambling to get Windows 8 ready for the market so it can launch tablets and tie the three screens together. Things finally are coming together. Though a number of things can still go wrong, the two work horses are moving in the right direction. However, the biggest question still is whether consumers will give them a chance or not?

Facebook – HTML5 R Us – Facebook has been a bit tentative in mobile over the last few years but is making a concerted effort in building its strategy around HTML5. It is also doing this by rallying partners from across the ecosystem. With its massive reach, it will be a significant player in mobile, commerce, and advertising.

Connected Home – One of my favorite MWC things to do is to visit the Connected Home to see how close we are getting to the reality of connected home. AT&T and other partners showcased some of their latest technologies in home automation and the remote monitoring and home automation platform is almost ready for prime time. AT&T expects the Digital Life platform to be available later this year.

Devices – There were a number of devices launched at the show. HTC got going first with HTC One. The most significant part of the announcement was the distribution deal with 140+ operators. They are going to have a good Q2. Sony, LG, ZTE, Huawei also announced their lineup. Nokia’s pureview stood out for me with its incredible new camera technology (even though it was built on Symbian). Apple, you can finish your Lytro acquisition now. Samsung feverishly pushed its Galaxy Note.

The Untouchables – With Apple launching its LTE iPad on March 7th, the non-Apple tablet market is pretty much frozen. While there were some new tablets launched at the show, an opportunity to change the game likely won’t occur until Microsoft comes out with 8 or Google springs in a surprise. Amazon will continue to sell Kindle Fire but it is hardly making a dent to Apple’s trajectory. Apple is so far ahead of its competitors in the top tier of this key emerging segment that you might as well classify the company as the untouchables.

HyperLocal on a Global Scale - Hyperlocal targeting has been around for some time, one can do polygon targeting meaning draw a polygon of the area where the advertiser wants to target the users. The advantage is that the ads are specific and more context-aware and hence the rate of engagement is higher. Advertisers get better leads and are quite useful for time sensitive campaigns. However, the capability is generally limited to certain regions or countries. Millennial Media extended their dev platform - mMedia allows developers and advertisers to do hyperlocal targeting on a global scale. 

Privacy – There was a lot of discussion on privacy. Everyone has an opinion but not necessarily a good solution. Everyone wants to be guardian of consumer data but don’t want to be held responsible for breaches. This pretty much means regulators are going to move in and it will be hard to predict the impact.

Retailers in mobile – Some of the retailers seem frozen in Mesozoic era and can’t seem to free themselves of their archaic strategies. They realize something is wrong but can’t bring them to change how they drive commerce. There is still a lot of focus on driving traffic to the stores rather than driving commerce to the stores.

Mobile Health and Wellness – Developed countries are driving mobile wellness and developing countries are driving mobile health.

2012 is going to be another fast-paced roller coaster for the mobile industry. Looking forward to a terrific year ahead.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

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

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