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2012 Mobile Industry Predictions Survey January 3, 2012

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2012 Mobile Industry Predictions Survey


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First things first. From all of us at Chetan Sharma Consulting, we wish you and yours a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2012. My thanks to all who participated in our 2012 Mobile Predictions Annual Survey. It gives our community an insider’s view of trends.

2011 was a terrific year for the mobile industry. With all its ups and down, consumers embraced devices, applications, services, and technology with more gusto than ever before. In the waning hours of 2011, we crossed the 6 billion subscriptions milestone. While the first billion took 19 years, this last billion only took 15 months.

Smartphones are selling like hot cakes. We estimate that by the end of Q4 2011, over 60% of the devices sold in the US were smartphones and over 30% of the global sales were for the evolved brethren of the primordial featurephones. Sparked by insatiable consumer demand for mobile data, LTE and HSPA+ networks are sprouting all over the planet with US leading the charge for broadband deployment.

Our annual survey is a way for us to engage our community on the trends for the next year. We put some of the pressing questions to our colleagues and industry leaders. We are able to glean some valuable insights from their choices and comments, some tangible shifts, and get a sense of what’s to come. Executives, developers, and insiders (n=150) from leading mobile companies and startups from across the value chain and around the world participated to help see what 2012 might bring to keep us on our toes. What makes this survey unique is that it draws upon the collective wisdom of folks who are at the center of the mobile evolution.

Fifteen names were randomly drawn for the limited edition of the Mobile Future Forward 2011 book. The winners are:

  1. Tor Bjorn Minde, Head of Ericsson Labs, Ericsson

  2. Sunder Somasundaram, Industry Solutions Practice Director, AT&T

  3. C. Enrique Ortiz, Mobile Technologist, About Mobility

  4. Russell Buckley, CMO, Eagle Eye

  5. Marianne Marck, VP – Engineering, Starbucks

  6. John Foster, President, ZED USA

  7. Angel Luis Saez, Sr. Director, Orange Spain

  8. Dilip Mistry, Senior Director, Microsoft Asia

  9. Phyllis Reuther, Advanced Analytics Lab, Sprint

  10. Gene Keenan, VP of Mobile, Isobar

  11. Elizabeth Day, Director of Finance, Trilogy International

  12. Alan Cole, Research Staff Member, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center

  13. X J Wang, VP – GM China, Vesta Corp

  14. Michelle Lee, Director, SK Telecom

  15. Hemant Chandak, Sr. Analyst, Cisco Systems

Thanks again to everyone who contributed. We will be calling on you again next year. It has been a terrific year for us at Chetan Sharma Consulting and we are looking forward to an engaging and productive 2012.

Be well, do good work, and stay in touch.

Thanks and with warm wishes,

Your feedback is always welcome.


Chetan Sharma

Now onto the 2012 Mobile Industry Predictions Survey Results.


1. What was most newsworthy in Mobile 2011?


Android had a spectacular rise in 2011 around the globe. Android OEMs collectively shipped the most number of devices and while margins shrank, they were able to put a united front to iOS. 2011 will always be remembered for the passing away of the industry transformer Steve Jobs. His work directly or indirectly touched billions of souls around the planet, many times over – something rarest of human beings are able to achieve in their life time. Regulatory tussles and significant increase in IP disputes also occupied the headlines. Amazon announced its intention for the mobile space with the launch of Kindle Fire.

2. What will be the biggest mobile stories of 2012?


As we look towards 2012, our panel voted for the continued growth of mobile data as the biggest story followed by Amazon’s entry into the mobile space. Some key questions for the year are: Will Microsoft/Nokia devices will make any meaningful progress? Will RIM survive the year? How does Google manage the fragmentation, decline in margins (for the OEMs), and the IP issues? Will any high-profile security and privacy mishaps lead to more regulatory entanglements? Facebook IPO and its mobile ambitions? How do operators manage the data demand? Which M&As will capture industry’s attention? Will Apple continue to dominate on both smartphone and tablet front? What does Apple do with mobile payments? and much more. Clearly, it is going to be a terrific year.

3. Who will be the most open player in the mobile ecosystem in 2012?


File this in the “perception is reality” folder. Despite all the criticism, Google has maintained its strong position as the most open player in the mobile industry.

4. What applications will define 4G?


Still looking for a killer-4G app? Video, cloud computing, and access will continue to drive 4G demand and growth.

5. What will be the breakthrough category in mobile in 2012?


For a second year in a row, the panel voted for mobile payments and mobile commerce as the top two category that will find their voice. Mobile advertising has become mainstream so it lost its ranking in the top 3.

6. What will be the most popular consumer mobile applications in 2012?


Apps preferences vary by regions depending on a whole range of factors. Messaging and Commerce are the top two categories for the developing world while consumers in the developed nations are likely to gravitate towards commerce and location based services.

7. Which will be the most dominant (unit sales) tablet platform in 2 years?


iOS and Android will dominate the tablet landscape for the next 24 months. A late entry by Windows 8 tablets could make a dent but don’t count on it.

8. Who will make the biggest mobile acquisition in 2012?


2011 had its fair share of block-buster acquisitions, some successful while others were not. Our panel expects Microsoft and Google to continue making the biggest acquisitions.

9. How will the "Apps vs. Mobile Web" debate shape up in 2012?


It seems like the pendulum is swinging towards the mobile web though hybrid solutions are likely to stay with us for a long time.

10. Who will define the mobile payment/commerce space?


The financial companies safely locked in the mobile payments space and while the value chain is fairly complicated and definition confusion abounds, the likes of Visa, Operators and Google will continue to drive the payments/commerce space.

11. Which solutions will gain the most traction for managing mobile data broadband consumption?


Managing data growth and margins drives all strategies at mobile operators these days which in turns drives the value chain. 4G, tiered pricing, and mobile offload continue to be the top solutions if one has the spectrum that is.

12. Which category will generate the most mobile data revenue in 2012?


Messaging, access, apps, and advertising are the four broad categories that drive mobile data revenues around the world. The developing markets rely on messaging while the developed markets are increasingly looking to access as their dominant form of revenue generation.

13. What will help mobile cloud computing gain traction in 2012?


Mobile cloud computing will continue to be defined by enterprise, storage, and media needs.

14. Which enterprise segment will mobile impact the most?


Best buy is becoming the next Circuit City. Other retailers will follow unless they can successful reinvent themselves. Health is more regulatory driven so the progress will be slow though it is ripe for a complete overhaul and developing nations are moving much faster in this space.

15. What will be the dominant revenue model for apps in 2012?


In-app revenue model made good strides in 2011 but the combination of the various available revenue models will be the norm for most application developers.

16. What mode of mobile payments will get traction in North America and Western Europe in 2012?


2011 was the year to set the ground work for growth in the mobile payments space. Given the investment and focus, we are likely to see more movement and consumer involvement in 2012 with proximity based solutions and commerce of physical goods on mobile.

17. What will be the most successful non-mobile-phone category in 2012?


Tablets dominate. Period.

18. Which of the following are likely to happen in the near future?


The is a significant shift in computing taking place right in front of our eyes wherein tablets are replacing laptops and even desktops in the enterprise. European operators have been experiencing tough times while some of the Asian operators are flush with cash, they might make their move in 2012 though regulatory hurdles might prove to be an issue. 33% of the nations will have elections in 2012, maybe which will move mobile voting to the forefront in some nations. Our panel thought there is a better chance of humans discovering water on another planet than rise of another significant mobile OS.

19. Which areas will feel the most impact from Regulators in 2012?


Net-neutrality and market competitiveness will keep the regulators busy in 2012.

20. Who was the mobile person of the year?


Clearly, Steve Jobs was an easy choice but who will replace him 2012? Jeff Bezos has an early lead followed by Andy Rubin and Mark Zuckerberg. Angry Birds representing the developer community will be in for another terrific year. Other honorable mentions were Tim Cook, Paul Jacobs, Sanjiv Ahuja, Dan Hesse, and Glenn Lurie.

A lot to look forward to in the New Year. My thanks to all who participated and we hope you found it useful as you embark on your journey for a successful 2012.

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 2012. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in Apr 2012.

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

State of the Global Mobile Industry – Half Yearly Assessment 2011 July 7, 2011

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The big picture

The global mobile industry is the most vibrant and fastest growing industry. We expect the total revenue in the industry to touch approximately $1.3 Trillion in 2011 with mobile data representing 24% of the mix. Global Mobile Data revenues are expected to eclipse $300 Billion for the first time in 2011. It is also the first year in which non-messaging data revenues will make up the majority of the overall global data revenues at 53%.

We expect the total number of subscriptions to exceed 6 billion by the end of 2011. The first 1 billion took over 20 years and this last one is going to take only 15 months. The primary growth drivers are India and China which are cumulatively adding 75M new subs every quarter. Indian and China are also entangled in the race to the billion. At the end of Q2 2011, China was ahead by 50M but India is adding subscriptions at faster rate and is likely to eclipse China before Q2 2012. By then, both nations are expected to exceed 1 Billion in total subscriptions making up 31% of the global subscriptions.

In Q1 2011, US became the first major market to exceed the 50% mark in smartphone sales. The global figure stands at approximately 26%. Some operators expect 90% of their devices sales to be smartphones by the end of the year. In terms of the actual smartphone penetration, we expect the US market to eclipse the 50% mark in 2012.

China leads in the number of subs but US dominates in both total and data revenue. A number of emerging nations are now in top 10 – Brazil, India, Russia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Mexico while once dominant – Korea, UK, Italy, Germany have dropped off or slipped in rankings.

The number of mobile operators with more than $1B in data revenues will increase to 47 in 2011. This number was only at 13 in 2005.

Japan continues to be the leader in mobile data with NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, and Softbank Japan ahead of the pack in terms of mobile data revenue and data as a % of total ARPU. In 2011, it became the first major market to have more than 50% of its mobile revenue from data services. Next, Australia and the US have made good inroads in the last two years. In fact, if we look at the overall data revenue, US is much further ahead than any nation due to the size of the market.

While India has the highest subscriber growth rate in the world right now, the revenue generating opportunity remain down right anemic compared to other major markets with average dropping down to $3.50 in overall ARPU. Even with significant subscriber base, there is going to be a general lack of opportunity in the market for the next couple of years relative to other markets.

Mobile Trends for 2011

1.Total Global Subscriptions to hit 6 Billion

–India and China racing to a billion a piece

2.Total Global Mobile Revenues to hit $1.3 Trillion, almost 2% of Global GDP

–Top 10 operators control 43% of the global mobile revenues

3.Total Global Mobile Data Revenues to eclipse $300 Billion

–Non-messaging data now owns 53% of the global mobile data revenues

4.Mobile Devices are now exceeding traditional computers in unit sales + revenue

–Majority of the device sales in the US are now smartphones. Device Replacement is shrinking

5.Mobile Broadband (4G) is being deployed at a faster rate than previous generations

–Over 1 Billion broadband connections by 2011

6.Global Mobile Apps revenue has shifted to off-deck

–The decline is directly proportional to the increase in smartphone penetration by region

7.All major markets are consolidating with the top 3 players at 85% of the market

–Regulators will have to be more prudent and proactive about managing competitiveness and growth

8.Mobile Data Traffic will be 95% of the global mobile traffic by 2015

–Many countries are facing spectrum exhaust in the next 5 years

9.Connected device segment is growing at the fastest pace

–Operators will have to quickly adapt their strategies to stay relevant in this segment

10.Several multi-billion dollar opportunity segments are emerging

–Mobile Advertising, Mobile Commerce, Mobile Wellness, Mobile Games, and Mobile Cloud Computing to name a few

11.Mobile Ecosystem has become very dynamic and unpredictable

–Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook have become the most important revenue generating mobile platforms

12. There will be more changes in the next 10 years than in the previous 100

– The value chains will keep disrupting every 12-24 months by the new players and business models

13. Intellectual Property has become a key component of long-term product strategy

– Top 20 control 1/3rd of the overall mobile patent pool


Apple has had the tablet space to itself. Thus far the response from the competitors has been tepid esp. on the pricing dimension. Apple has had such a mastery over the supply-chain and months ahead of the competition that by the time they figure out details, Apple already locks up the pricing advantage for the cycle. OEMs try to catch-up on the features but can’t do on the margins. OEMs can grow the pie by bringing products at a better price points that helps attract different demographics to the mix. Microsoft can make good inroads into the space with its Win8 tablet release in 2012 but it will be again in a catch-up mode as the iOS ecosystem will be even more robust by then. The cheaper Android tablets will do well in the market. As expected, tablets will pretty much eliminate the need for netbooks and are starting to eat into the desktop/laptop revenue.

Nokia and RIM are under severe market scrutiny as investors and developers leave in droves. Lack of product planning and execution has left their market share in disarray. Nokia’s valuation has been cut into half while the newcomer HTC edged past the industry giant in a remarkable story of the year. Nokia’s release of N9 shows the engineering and creative design depth but a lot is riding on the first generation of Nokia Windows Phones. While the market hasn’t shown much appetite for Windows phone thus far, a good family of devices might be able to slow the loss trajectory and position the combined team for the up-for-grabs 3rd spot in the ecosystem. HP’s acquisition of Palm is finally bringing some new products to the market but the lack of an effective ecosystem means lack of traction in 2011. Given that the computing is shifting to mobile devices, we can expect some of the weaker desktop/laptop players will exit the industry.

Tablets are primarily being used in the WiFi mode because the primary use case is indoors and WiFi gives a better (and cheaper) user experience. Once operators start to roll out user-friendly family data plans across multiple devices, we can expect the cellular activation go higher but will still be dominated by WiFi overall.

The number of connected devices per subscriber and per family will continue to increase over the course of this decade. As the cost structure and margin profile for these devices will be different, we are likely to measure performance of various operators using margin analysis for e.g. while the ARPU for connected devices is 5-10 times lower than the postpaid subscribers, the margins are typically higher due to lower costs of sales, marketing, support, and subsidy. As such the overall impact is dilutive ARPU but higher margins. So, instead of focusing on just the ARPU, the efficiency of operators will be measured in how well they maintain average margin per user (AMPU) and average margin per connection (AMPC).

Managing the data growth

As a result of the data tsunami, there are two types of opportunities that are being created, one that take advantage of the data being generated in a way that enhances the user experience and provides value and the other in technologies that help manage the traffic data that will continue to grow exponentially.

To be able to stay ahead of the demand, significant planning needs to go in to deal with the bits and bytes that are already exploding. New technical and business solutions will be needed to manage the growth and profit from the services. Relying on only one solution won’t be an effective strategy to manage rising data demand. A holistic approach to managing data traffic is needed and our analysis shows that the cost structure can be reduced by more than half if a suite of solutions are deployed vs. a single dimensional approach and thus bringing the hockey stick curves of data cost more in line with the revenues and thus preserving the margins.

The decision making process within the operator organizations will need to be streamlined as well. Operators should also consider creating a senior post which focuses on both the cost side and the solution side so they can devise and institute a sustainable long-term policy and keep the margins healthy.

Competitive landscape

The Rule of Three is evident in all major markets. While the percentage market share might vary, on an average, the top 3 control 93% of the market in an given nation. It doesn’t matter if the market is defined by “controlled regulation” like in China, Korea, and Japan or if it is “open market” driven in markets such as the US, UK, and India. Eventually, only top 3 operators control the majority of the market. There are niches that others occupy but they are largely irrelevant to the overall structure and functioning of the mobile market.

Markets such as US and India experienced similar competitive environment in their hyper-growth phase. For the US, this phase was in the nineties-mid-2000s while India has been experiencing the similar environment in the last 3-4 years. In both cases, at the start there are 5-6 players with no more than 25% market share but higher than 10% of the mix but gradually the market forces enable consolidation. Over a period of 18 years, US is settling into a “top 3” operator market. India’s brutal price wars are going to trigger the consolidation in the next 12-24 months and will eventually settle into a structure similar to other markets.

The competitive equilibrium point in the mobile industry seems to when the market shares of the top 3 are 46%:29%:18% respectively with the remaining 7% being allocated to the niche operators. To achieve some semblance of equilibrium in the market the top operator shouldn’t have more than 50% of the market share and the number three player shouldn’t have less than 20%. This helps create enough balance in the market to derive maximum value for the consumer.

Mobile operators will face some hard choices in developing and protecting the role they want to play in a given region and the ecosystem at-large. The strategy they choose will have a direct impact on the expected EBITDA margins, investment required over the long-haul, how investors view them, and on the competitive landscape of the country. Given, the fast pace of globalization, new rules and trends might emerge over the course of this decade that further define “communications” and “computing” as we know it.

Apps and Services

As expected, mobile commerce and payment discussions are dominating the ecosystem. There is clearly a lot of investment and marketing dollars being spent. However, the traditional payments networks are largely intact. The new opportunities are being built on top of the existing payment platforms with convenience (Square) and offers and advertising (Google Wallet, ISIS, Groupon). Beyond payments, mobile is getting ingrained into every vertical and every facet of our lives – from healthcare to education, from energy to entertainment, from communication to socialization. And we are in the early innings of figuring out the business models, ecosystem leaders, user behavior, regulatory needs, and the overall impact on society.

Ecosystem Dynamics

It is very clear that the ecosystem dynamics can change very quickly, one just can’t take the competitive and friendly forces for granted. In the past, the silos and segments were clearly defined with little overlap. However, over the course of last couple of years, players have been migrating and surfing in segments across the board – from Apple to Visa, from P&G to AT&T, from Facebook to Time Warner, from Google to Best Buy, every company wants to capture the mindshare and piece of the consumer’s pocketbook. The fine line between partners and competitors can get obliterated in a quarter. Apple is competing with Cisco, Comcast is going after AT&T’s business, Visa and Verizon want to be the payment channel of choice, Amazon is gunning for Microsoft’s enterprise business. One product launch, one acquisition, can change the game in an instant.  And this is only the beginning.

Mobile is fundamentally reshaping how we as consumers spend from housing and healthcare to entertainment and travel, from food and drinks to communication and transportation. Mobile not only influences purchase behavior but also post purchase opinions. When the share button is literally a second away, consumers are willingly sharing more information than ever before. Mobile is thus helping close the nirvana gap for brands and advertisers who seek to connect advertising to actual transactions. The long-term battle is however for owning the context of the users. Having the best knowledge about the user to help drive the transaction is the simply the most valuable currency of commerce.

Mobile Future Forward

We will be discussing the global mobile ecosystem – the challenges and the opportunities at our annual mobile thought-leadership summit – Mobile Future Forward – brought to you in partnership with our terrific partners – Qualcomm, Millennial Media, Real Networks, AT&T Interactive, Synchronoss Technologies, OpenMarket, Ericsson, and Openwave. Hope to see you in Seattle on Sept 12th.

Some of the distinguished guests include:

Abhi Ingle, VP – Advanced Mobility, AT&T Wireless; Amit Gupta, SVP and CTO, INQMobile; Bob Gessel, VP/Head of Technology and Network Strategy, Ericsson; Braxton Woodham, Head of Engineering, AVOS; Carlos Domingo, CEO, Telefonica; Charlie Herrin, SVP – Products and Technology, Comcast; Dale Nitschke, former President, Target; Danny Bowman, President – Connected Devices, Sprint Nextel; David Messenger, EVP, Head – Online/Mobile, American Express; Erik Moreno, SVP, Fox; Gibu Thomas, SVP – Online/Mobile, Walmart; Glenn Lurie, President, AT&T Wireless; Hank Skorny, Chief Strategy Officer, Real Networks; Janet Schijns, VP, Verizon Wireless; Jason McKenzie, President, HTC-Americas; Jay Emmet, GM, OpenMarket; Jeremiah Zinn, EVP, MTV; Jerry Batt, CIO, PulteGroup; John SanGiovanni, Cofounder, Zumobi; Ken Denman, CEO, Openwave; Ken Wirth, President, Alcatel Lucent Wireless; Kris Rinne, SVP – Networks, AT&T Wireless; Mark Rolston, Chief Creative Officer, Frog Design; Matt Oommen, President, Reliance Communications; Mikael Back, VP of Products and Portfolio Management, Ericsson; Mike Mulica, President, Synchronoss Technologies; Paul Palmieri, CEO, Millennial Media; Prof. Cliff Nass, Human Computer Interaction, Stanford University; Rob Glaser, Partner, Accel; Sanjiv Ahuja, CEO, LightSquared; Stephen Bye, CTO, Sprint; Steve Mollenkopf, EVP and Group President, Qualcomm; Subba Rao, former CEO, Tata DoCoMo; Suja Chandrasekaran, CIO, Timberland; Will Hsu, Chief Product Officer, AT&T Interactive

More information at http://www.mobilefutureforward.com

Your feedback is always welcome.

Thanks and have a great 2H 2011.

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 Aug 2011. The next Global Wireless Market update will be issued in Jan 2012.

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

New Research: Competition and the Evolution of Mobile Markets April 28, 2011

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Competition and the Evolution of Mobile Markets

A Study of Competition in Global Mobile Markets



Over the course of the last decade, mobile communications has become an essential part of the global fabric of evolution. With almost 70% global subscription penetration as of 2010, mobility is being embedded into almost every facet of our lives. Mobility is also spreading across verticals whether it is m-pesa in Kenya or SMS based counterfeit medicine detection in Ghana or paying for your coffee using your NFC enabled mobile phone in a Tokyo café or watching the cricket world cup broadcast while hiking the Yangtze river near Tibet. Consumers expect access to information everywhere they are and the ecosystem is responding with continued innovation, which has become extremely critical in managing the competitiveness of nations.

It is also apparent that some of the innovation and market dynamics has been evidenced by the competitiveness of these markets at different levels – network, devices, and services. While the market entry conditions into the devices and software services markets have gone through significant overhaul this last decade, the competitiveness framework of the mobile networks has been more structured and controlled in many instances.

Given the importance of the mobile network infrastructure to every nation’s competitiveness, security, and productivity, it is useful to understand how the “competitive mobile markets” are formed. In theory, the perfectly competitive markets are in the best interest of the consumers as they provide the best value given the competitive dynamics and the equilibrium provides good checks and balances for the ecosystem.

The global mobile networks have shown a remarkable adherence to the “Rule of Three” which states that in any mature industry, 3 top players dominate the market. Sometimes it has been dictated by the regulators and in other instances by the markets. Some markets like in Europe have settled into a state of equilibrium while other hyper growth markets like India are shuffling to find the right balance.

The elements of globalization are also shaping how mobile network operators grow. The regulators and the political class are increasingly looking at mobile networks as national assets and any foreign ownership generally goes through tremendous scrutiny.

Having worked in major mobile markets around the world, we have been intrigued by the framework  for a competitive market and this is the theme we explore in this working paper. Having the front row seat in an industry that is growing stupendously has given us some unique perspective on the competitive forces at work in the mobile space. We studied the competitive landscape in 40 top mobile markets around the globe.

This paper presents the analysis and an in-depth analytical framework to study the competitive landscape in the global mobile markets.

Download Paper (45 pages, 2MB)

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

New White Paper: The Promise of Mobile Advertising February 2, 2011

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,AORTA,Carriers,Middleware,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Future,Mobile Future Forward,Mobile Usability,Mobile Users,Privacy,Smart Phones,US Wireless Market,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 1 comment so far



Commissioned by AT&T Interactive

Executive Summary

The world of advertising is changing at a dizzying pace. New media are transforming advertising, and consumer expectations have changed accordingly. In this dynamic environment, no communications platform holds more promise than the mobile device.

Mobile platforms present a unique opportunity to reinvent advertising. With mobile, the perception of advertising will shift from interruptive broadcast messages to targeted information services of real value to consumers and positive interactions that have an immediate top-line impact.

Advertisers care about two basic metrics – reach and purity. They want to communicate with as many people as possible (reach) and they want to reach the most accurately targeted audience possible (purity). In the past, advertisers have tried to compensate for a lack of purity by casting a wider net, spending inefficiently and often failing to reach their target audience.

With mobile, advertisers can deliver the right information to the right target at the most opportune time; delight the consumer with instant gratification; complete transactions and measure direct correlations between advertising, transactions, and return on advertising (ROA). With the power of real-time metrics in hand, advertisers can scientifically design, measure, and alter their campaigns and deploy strategies for one-to-one relationship building with customers.

Mobile is having a significant impact on local advertising. The attributes of immediacy, location, always-on connectivity, user profile and segmentation, and the viral nature of the medium make mobile the best channel for local advertisers to engage potential customers.

Download full paper.


Chetan Sharma

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

2011 Mobile Predictions Survey Results January 3, 2011

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2011 Mobile Predictions Survey


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First things first. From all of us at Chetan Sharma Consulting, we wish you and yours a very happy,

healthy, and prosperous 2011. Thanks to all who participated in our 2011 Mobile Predictions Annual Survey. We have found it is the best way to think about the trends coming our way.

We put some of the questions to our colleagues and industry leaders in the industry. We were able to glean some valuable insights from their choices and comments. This survey is different from some of the others in the sense that it includes industry movers and shakers participation. Executives and insiders (n=225) from leading mobile companies across the value chain and around the world opined to help us see what 2011 might bring.

Ten names were randomly drawn the limited edition Mobile Future Forward book. The winners are:

1. Jared Cornfeld, Industry analyst, FCC

2. Abhi Rele, Marketing, Microsoft

3. Christopher Billich ,Head of Mobile Advertising, Deutsche Telekom AG

4. Gary Cohen, VP/GM North America, Flirtomatic

5. Peter Jarich, Service Director, Current Analysis

6. Darren Austin, Director of Mobile, Expedia

7. Craig Fisher, Software Client Leader, IBM

8. Steve Wood, CEO, Perlego Systems, Inc.

9. Elliott Hamilton, Sr. Director of Strategic Planning, TeleCommunication Systems

10. Vishal Gupta, Vice President North America, Qualcomm Inc

Thanks again to everyone who contributed. We will be calling on you again next year. We are clearly

living in "interesting times" with never a dull moment in our dynamic industry. It has been a terrific

year for us here at Chetan Sharma Consulting and we are looking forward to 2011 and seeing many of

you along the way. We hope you enjoyed gaining from the collective wisdom.

Be well, Do Cool Work, Stay in touch.

Thanks. With warm wishes,

Your feedback is always welcome.


Chetan Sharma

Now onto the 2011 Mobile Industry Predictions Survey Results

The panel comprised of movers and shakers of the mobile industry from around the world.



What will be the biggest stories of 2011?


In last year’s survey, Google/Android narrowly missed out to be the biggest story of the year but this year, the verdict was clear that Google will continue to dominate the headlines with Android devices and new updates and apps. Given that we are in the midst of 4G deployments and ITU’s flipflop on the definition, we could be in for an interesting year.

When will Verizon iPhone launch?


Inordinate amount of ink has been spilt over Verizon’s iPhone speculation. However, given the chatter, our panel voted for a Q1 launch.

Who will be the most open player in the mobile ecosystem in 2011?


In all our surveys Google has consistently cemented its perception of being the most open in the ecosystem.

Will Android tablet sales exceed iOS tablet sales in 2011?


Last year, Android OS edged past iOS, however, given the lead iOS has had in tablets, it might be hard to overcome the number of shipments in 2011.

Who will make the biggest mobile acquisition in 2011?


Got Cash? Big players are likely to go shopping but who will score the blockbuster deal of the year. Google and Microsoft will duke it out with Google taking the spoils.

How will the "Apps vs. Mobile Web" debate shape up in 2011?


Apps vs Mobile Web has been as hotly debated in the industry as the CDMA vs. GSM battles of the past. Our panel thought Apps will continue to grow though mobile web starts to show its muscle.

By how much will the mobile advertising ad-spend increase in 2011?


Our panel was more bullish on mobile advertising than last year with a good 50% of respondents aiming for 200% growth and higher.

Which market will be the biggest infrastructure in 2011 for sales opportunities?


India and China are laying out 3G and North America is expanding on 4G. Infrastructure contracts abound.

Who will be the mobile come back story of 2011?


Many long-time players are under the gun this year. Will Windows 7 help Microsoft or will Meego make Nokia competitive. Story will unfold this year.

Who will end up having the strongest position in the mobile payment/commerce space?


While Japan/Korea markets have developed mature mobile payments solutions, the battle royale of mobile payments in North America will play out between the financial guys and Operators with Internet players making a strong run at it as well. 2011 might help decide the long-term winners in the space. Our panel thinks, the likes of Mastercard and Visa will edge out others in the tussle.

Which areas will feel the most impact from Regulators in 2011?


Regulators can have a huge impact on the course of the industry and nation’s competitiveness. With the laws all but laid out, the real rulings might come from the courts.

Which solutions will gain the most traction for managing mobile data broadband consumption?


2010 saw the emergence of tiered data pricing in North America and operators all over the world are bracing for a long-term challenge of managing mobile data growth. We have written extensively on this subject in our Yottabyte series. Our panel voted for Tiered pricing and 4G as the top two solutions.

Which category will generate the most data revenues in 2011?


Global markets are quite different and while data service revenues have been growing in all regions, our panel breaks down by categories in terms of expected contribution from various segments.

What will help mobile cloud computing gain traction in 2011?


Mobile Cloud Computing is expected to take several strides in 2011 with Media and Enterprise demand at the forefront.

What will be the most successful non-mobile phone category in 2011?


As we have highlighted in our previous research, Connected devices have shown tremendous growth in 2010. Tablet seems to be clear category winner.

What will be the breakthrough category in mobile in 2011?


Mobile payments and commerce are starting to take off and are expected to show the most growth in 2011.

By the end of 2011, how will we end up defining 4G?


ITU’s flipflop means, anything above HSPA+ will be deemed a 4G technology.

Which enterprise segment will mobile impact the most?


Mobile as a platform is booming with Retail finally getting into the swing of things and will show the most activity in 2011.

What will be the dominant revenue model for apps in 2011?


While paid apps dominated the revenue stream in the early days, advertising and in-app payments are taking off on iOS and Android. Developers will play with a combination of models depending on what works on a given platform.

What mode of mobile payments will get traction in NA and WE in 2011?


Operators experimented with mobile payments over the last few years, now is the time to put the solutions to the test.

Who was the mobile person of the year?


Who can compete with King Jobs. Launching iconic devices year after another, Steve Jobs has set the direction of the industry since 2007 and was a clear favorite for the mobile person of the year. The tremendous success of the apps personified by blockbuster hit of "Angry Birds" took away the second spot with Andy Rubin’s Android effort won him the third spot.

Well, there you have it. The top trends and stories we will be talking about in 2011. Thanks again for all who participated and we hope that you found this useful as you embark on your journey for the year.

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 2011. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in Mar 2011.

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

Announcing Mobile Future Forward Executive Summit June 14, 2010

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You have seen some hints of the project that we have been working on for sometime. We are proud to announce “Mobile Future Forward” Executive summit to be held in Seattle on Sept 8th, 2010.

Registration is Open Now. Early Bird expires June 30th 2010.

MFF is a gathering of some of the most brilliant minds in the mobile industry. The goal is to look at how mobile is likely to evolve over the course of this decade. We couldn’t have done this without the tremendous support of our excellent sponsors who are paving the way in their respective segments.



The speaker list includes the who’s who of the mobile industry:


Glenn Lurie, President, AT&T

Subba Rao, CEO, TataDoCoMo,

Mike Sievert, Chief Commercial Officer, Clearwire

Louis Gump, VP Mobile, CNN,

Paul Palmieri, Founder and CEO, Millennial Media

Dr. Sailesh Chutani, CEO, Mobisante

Abhi Ingle, VP, AT&T Wireless

Ken Denman, CEO, Openwave

Amir Mashkoori, CEO, Kovio

Stephen David, Former CIO, Proctor & Gamble

Dr. Genevieve Bell, Intel Fellow, User Experience, Intel

Hank Skorny, SVP, Real Networks

Jon Stross, VP & GM – Babycenter, Johnson & Johnson

Dr. Suzanne Sysko, Chief Medical Officer, WellDoc

Dr. Boris Nikolic, Sr. Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Krishna Vedati, SVP & GM – Mobile, AT&T Interactive

Christopher Dean, Chief Strategy Officer, Skype

Russ McGuire, VP, Sprint Nextel

Jack Kennedy, EVP, News Corp

David Weiden, General Partner, Khosla Ventures

Anand Chandrasekhar, SVP and GM, Intel

Chamath Palihapitiya, VP Growth/Mobile, Facebook

Rob Glaser, Chairman, Real Networks

Wim Sweldens, President – Wireless Division, Alcatel Lucent

Takayuki Hoshuyama, CEO, D2 Communications

Neville Ray, SVP, T-Mobile

Bob Azzi, SVP—Networks, Sprint Nextel

Mario Queiroz, VP—Android, Google

Matt Bross, Global CTO, Huawei

We will be covering the following topics in detail:

You can read more about what you can expect at the executive summit in the following whitepaper.

Mobile Future Forward Paper

I hope to see you there.

Chetan Sharma

Chief Curator

Mobile Future Forward

US Wireless Data Market Update – Q1 2010 May 16, 2010

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US Wireless Data Market Update – Q1 2010


Executive Summary

The US wireless data market grew 5% Q/Q and 22% Y/Y to exceed $12.5B in mobile data service revenues in Q1 2010 – on track so far to our initial estimate of $54B for the year.

In a significant milestone that went largely unnoticed, Verizon Wireless edged past NTT DoCoMo – the decade old leader in mobile data revenues to become the biggest mobile data operator by data revenues. Helped by its 93M subscriber base and high ARPU, the Verizon juggernaut is steamrolling. Rest of the 3 top US operators also occupy leading positions amongst the top 10 global mobile data operators.

The US subscription penetration was approximately 94% at the end of Q1 2010. If we take out the demographics of 5 yrs and younger, the mobile penetration is now past 100%. While the traditional net-adds have been slowing, the “connected device” segment is picking up so much so that both AT&T and Verizon added more connected devices than postpaid subs in Q1 2010. Given the slow postpaid growth in, operators are fiercely competing in prepaid, enterprise, connected devices, and M2M segments.

Data traffic continued to increase across all networks. US has become ground zero for mobile broadband consumption and data traffic management evolution. While it lags Japan and Korea in 3G penetration by a distance, due to higher penetration of smartphones and datacards, the consumption is much higher than its Asian counterparts. Given that it is also becoming the largest deployment base for HSPA+, LTE and WiMAX, most of the cutting edge research in terms of data management and experimentation with policy, regulations, strategy, and business models is taking place in the networks of the US operators and keenly watched by players across the global ecosystem.

We are starting to see the inevitable changes in broadband pricing starting with T-Mobile and MetroPCS. Over the course of this year, we are likely to see newer pricing models that tie usage to pricing and add multiple devices to a single data bucket.

The fabled iPad landed in the market and it is a winner. Apple’s latest gizmo has created a new user experience category of casual and couch computing that will foster growth in the connected device space. Kids of the now generation are growing with connected electronics that is fundamentally altering the behaviors and expectations of interaction, communication, consumption, and monetization.

Privacy brouhaha has been brewing for some time and the polity class is getting interested in stepping in. If people are really serious about tackling privacy, OEMs and carriers should build a physical/soft privacy button on the device with 3-5 levels (just like for the ringer volume) that allows users to open/close privacy across all applications and services with the touch of a button. All apps and services should adhere to the principle via APIs. The other mistake companies make about privacy is by treating everyone the same. Privacy is about the perception of control and transparency. If it is given back to the consumer, they are likely to engage more and have a more positive impact on revenue streams that are likely to flow.

In an another global milestone, Softbank became the first major operator to have more service revenues from data services than voice services. In Q1 2010, 55% of its service revenues were attributed to data services. (While Smart and Globe have been reporting 50%+ revenues from data services for a long time, the total revenues are not at scale with the leading global operators. Incidentally, for the first time in many years, the data revenue % slipped below 50% for the both operators in Q1). Based on current projections, US is likely to cross the 50% data revenue threshold in late 2012 or early 2013. NTT DoCoMo is next in line to cross the 50% mark this year.

All this has setup an absolutely fascinating period in the communication/computing industry. Convergence is everywhere and is leading to fundamental reset of the value chains and ecosystems. We are going to be discussing the ins and outs of how the industry is going to evolve in the next decade in our Sept 8th event – Mobile Future Forward which is bringing leading industry thought-leaders, inventors, and doers to brainstorm, discuss, and debate what’s next. Hope you can join the discussion.

What to expect in the coming months?

The pace of product introduction is accelerating with each quarter. Devices of all shapes and sizes are coming into the market. Players are having to re-evaluate their businesses and long-term strategies. Several new impressive handsets got introduced during the course of 1H of 2010. iPad finally launched and even the next generation iPhone walked into a bar.

Microsoft announced its comeback with the W7 launch though the time it is taking to launch is making partners nervous. The change in UI was refreshing though the inability for the OEMs to differentiate is not winning friends. HP acquired Palm in attempt to become relevant again in the mobile device space. Some other players missed out in buying an attractive IP portfolio. It has been an action packed 2010 thus far and we can expect more of the same for the remainder of the year.

2010 has also been active on the regulatory front as the national broadband plan was unveiled in March (our thoughts on the plan). The Comcast ruling delivered a blow to the FCC and any directives or policies will hardly have any impact on the ecosystem in the short-term.

With the looming spectrum shortage, regulatory bodies can have a significant impact on the competitiveness of a nation. Many countries in South America have imposed unnecessary spectrum caps. Others are behind in sorting out their spectrum allocations. The industry and regulators need to work hand-in-hand to make progress beyond speeches and paperwork.

To start planning for 4G, 5G, and beyond, US should think about rolling a 50 year broadband plan. While more spectrum is always helpful, will we have all the spectrum we need in 2050? or do we need to invent new technologies and business models that use spectrum more wisely? This topic will keep the industry occupied for some time to come. (Former FCC Chairman, Kevin Martin headlined our Mobile Breakfast Series event in March and discussed the Spectrum Crises. Our June 10th event is bringing CEOs of some of the most innovative mobile startups to discuss the ecosystem)

2010 is also the year of network rollouts. T-Mobile has been rolling out HSPA+ at an impressive rate, Clearwire has been expanding the network so fast that it has become the biggest construction company in the US, Verizon is betting big on LTE and AT&T has been adding backhaul, upgrading to HSPA+ and planning for LTE all at once. Even the smaller carriers like MetroPCS are looking for competitive advantage with quicker LTE launch and beat others by carrying the first LTE smartphone. (We will be releasing the next edition of our “State of the “Mobile” Broadband Nation” paper later this year)

As we had mentioned last year, the mobile data traffic kept on growing disproportional to the revenues. A series of solutions have come into the market from players big and small. We will be releasing the second edition of our in-depth research paper on data growth – "Managing Growth and Profits in the Yottabyte Era" later this month.

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 Q1 2010 US wireless data market is:

Service Revenues (Slides 7, 16)

ARPU (Slides 8-11)

Subscribers (Slides 12-14)

Applications and Services



Data Traffic (Slide 15)

· As we noted in our last update, the data traffic is now significantly more than the voice traffic. The good news is that there are several solutions that available and are being invented that will help manage the data growth. The question is how fast will the operators deploy some of these solutions.

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 Aug 2010. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in Sept 2010.

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.

Global Mobile Data Market Update 2009 March 31, 2010

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,AORTA,ARPU,BRIC,Carnival of Mobilists,Carriers,CTIA,Devices,Enterprise Mobility,European Wireless Market,Federal,Gaming,General,India,Indian Wireless Market,Infrastructure,Intellectual Property,International Trade,IP,IP Strategy,Japan Wireless Market,Location Based Services,M&A,Mergers and Acquisitions,Messaging,Microsoft Mobile,Middleware,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Mobile Gaming,Mobile Search,Mobile Traffic,Mobile TV,Mobile Usability,Mobile Users,Mobile Wallet,Music Player,MVNO,Networks,Partnership,Patent Strategies,Patent Strategy,Patents,Privacy,Smart Phones,Speaking Engagements,Speech Recognition,Storage,Strategy,Unified Messaging,US Wireless Market,Usability,VoIP,Wi-Fi,WiMax,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 4 comments

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Executive Summary

The Global Wireless Markets continued to grow rapidly especially in India and China where the carriers (combined) are adding almost 30M new subscriptions every month. Amongst the two, India is outpacing China 2:1. China touched 750M subscriptions while India crossed 525M by the end of 2009. With 4.6B subscriptions, the global subscriptions penetration was above 68%.

The global mobile data revenues reached $220B and mobile data now contributes 26% of the overall global mobile service revenues.

As expected, the overall global mobile revenues stayed pretty flat for the year at around $1.1 trillion as many regions were hit by the recession and the competition pushed the ARPU lower for many operators. While the countries like US, Japan, China, and India showed very little signs of pullback, most of Europe and the developing world experienced a decline in overall service revenues in 2009. All the major markets have their data contribution percentages above 10% now.

For some of the leading operators, data is now contributing almost 50% of the overall revenues. However, the increase in data ARPU is not completely offsetting the drop in voice ARPU for most operators. NTT DoCoMo continues to dominate the carrier ranking in terms of the mobile data service revenues, Verizon Wireless which became #2 replacing China Mobile and is slowly edging towards the #1 spot and is likely to overtake DoCoMo within the next few quarters.

Though 4G as a standard hasn’t been defined yet, the discussions around LTE and WiMAX deployments grew intense. Telia Sonera became the first operator to commercially launch LTE. At CTIA, Sprint/HTC became the first players to launch a WiMAX smartphone and MetroPCS/Samsung took the honors for the LTE smartphone.

2009 also marked the year when the global data traffic (monthly) exceeded the global voice traffic. In the US, the yearly mobile data traffic exceeded the voice traffic for the first time.

We are also entering the phase of global mega-mergers in telecom. Bharti Airtel of India just acquired Kuwait-based Zain Group to become the 5th largest telecom group in the world (at the end of 2009, it was #9). There are now 14 telecom groups with 100M or more subscriptions. While China Mobile’s ARPU is 1/5th of its western counterparts, it operates its business at higher margin, around 51%. There are a number of global players mainly in Europe and Asia who have mastered the art of running lean operations and if they have good bank balance they are going to go shopping in the days ahead.

From the revenue perspective, the $50 billion revenue club is more exclusive with China Mobile, Vodafone, AT&T Mobility, and Verizon Wireless as its sole members.

As we sit at the cusp of the iPad era, there is a bigger transformation taking place and that is of the connected consumer electronic devices (CEDs). Few years from now, most popular CEDs will have connectivity. We are also approaching the start of phase where pricing of access will start to morph – we will see the introduction of family data plans (something we have been advocating for some time), ability to connect multiple devices to the same GB plan, more granular use plans (per session/day/week/mo/yr etc, roll-over GBs anyone?). As the number of connected devices/consumer increases, we will start worrying about Average Margin Per User (AMPU) or Average Margin Per Connection (AMPC) because ARPU won’t quite capture the dynamics of the industry.

Exciting times indeed.

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 with added insights from our work in various global markets.

Impact of Global Recession

  • Telecom in general fared better than other industries. In some regions, it hardly caused a tremor. However, in most nations, the impact was felt by the operators. Amongst the 40 major operators we studied, SK Telecom, 3 Australia, KTF, T-Mobile Netherlands, Rogers, Softbank Japan, Singtel, Vodafone Italy, T-Mobile Germany, 3 Sweden, Telstra, China Unicom, and Vodafone Germany experienced increase in both the data ARPU and the overall ARPU during 2009. Some of increase was due to the fluctuation in international currencies e.g. Korea.

  • Looking at the data at a country level, most nations noted a decline in overall ARPU. Only Venezuela, Pakistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Australia, and Poland showed positive increase in ARPU since 2008.

  • Rule of Three is kicking in most markets with smaller players having to consider the M&A option to remain viable. T-Mobile/Orange, Bharti/Zain tie-ups are just the start of that process. We are likely to see many international mergers in 2010 and beyond as power in the mobile ecosystem self-adjusts.

  • 5 new players joined the 100M subscriptions club. The new members are: Bharti Airtel (India), MTN Group (South Africa), Orascom (Egypt), Etisalat (UAE), and MTS (Russia). The top 9 telecom groups in the world are: China Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica, America Movil, Telenor, T-Mobile, China Unicom, TeliaSonera, and Orange.

Service Revenues

  • US extended its lead over Japan as the most valuable mobile data market in service revenue with US adding $44.56B vs. $32.5B for Japan in 2009. China with $20.3B was ranked number 3. US registered the highest growth amongst the top 3 with over 40% increase from EOY 2008 levels followed by Japan and China.
  • The top 10 nations by service revenues are: US, China, Japan, France, Italy, UK, Germany, Brazil, Spain, and India.
  • The top 10 nations by data service revenues are: US, Japan, China, UK, Italy, Germany, France, Australia, Spain, and Korea.
  • NTT DoCoMo continues to dominate the wireless data revenues rankings with over $16B in data services revenue in 2009. Almost 46% of its overall revenue now comes from data services. DoCoMo also crossed the 95% 3G mark.
  • NTT DoCoMo was followed by Verizon Wireless, China Mobile, AT&T, KDDI, Sprint Nextel, Softbank Mobile, T-Mobile USA, O2 UK, and China Unicom to round up the top 10 operators by wireless data service revenues.
  • Each of the top 5 carriers exceeded $10B in yearly mobile data service revenues in 2009
  • Data revenues for the top 10 operators now account for almost 43% of the global mobile data revenues.
  • The biggest jump in data revenues was experienced by Verizon, Softbank, and AT&T. DoCoMo saw an 11% increase for the year.
  • Most of the operators in the developed nations are contemplating future strategies to boost data revenues such that the decline in voice revenues is at least compensated for. There are very few operators who have experienced increase in overall ARPU.
  • China reported approximately $20.3B in data revenues for 2009 and the percentage contribution from data services is around 32%, data ARPU is around $3.2. For India, data ARPU continues to stay below $0.50 as most of the new adds are voice only subscribers and there is continued price pressure in the market.
  • China Mobile remains the most valuable telecom operator with over $195B in market cap. It is followed by Vodafone at around $122B. Telecom groups in mature markets are under enormous pressure to either come up with a global expansion strategy or accelerate their existing plans.
  • In 2009, SMS’s vice like grip on data revenues continues to loosen a bit with many carriers seeing an increase in non-SMS data revenues. On an average, Japan and Korea have over 70-75% of their revenue coming from non-SMS data applications, US around 50-60%, and Western Europe around 20-40%.
  • NTT DoCoMo has been at the cutting edge of the mobile data evolution by creating new markets. They are exploring new technologies and social experiments ahead of almost anybody else in the market. Our long history with the Japanese and Korean markets has taught us that while the individual strategies in each market will differ, one should study the trends, technologies, and ecosystem dynamics in these markets to get a sense of what’s coming.

· From the revenue perspective, the $50 billion revenue club has limited membership with China Mobile, Vodafone, AT&T Mobility, and Verizon Wireless as its sole members.


  • Most of the major operators around the world have double digit percentage contribution to their overall ARPU from data services. Operators like DoCoMo, and Softbank are over 46%. KDDI, 3 Australia, 3 Italy, 3 UK, Vodafone UK, O2 UK, Telstra, and 3 Sweden exceeded 35% and many others are on the verge of crossing the 30% mark.
  • NTT DoCoMo reported the highest data ARPU for the year while Rogers took away the honors for the highest overall ARPU. Other notable percentage increases in ARPU were from 3 Italy, SK Telecom, KTF, T-Mobile Germany, 3 Sweden, and T-Mobile Austria. The Japanese operators saw a decline in ARPU by 3%.
  • The biggest percentage contribution by data ARPU has been consistently registered (since mid 2002) by two Philippines carriers – Smart Communications and Globe Telecom with over 53% (or $2) contribution coming from the data services.
  • Softbank of Japan looks set to be the first major operator (outside of Philippines) with more revenues coming from data services than voice.

Mobile Data Traffic

  • We have been calling attention to the tremendous increase in mobile data traffic for some time. The discussion has hit mainstream and many operators are scrambling to nail-down their short-term and long-term strategies to manage the data traffic growth in their networks. See our paper on the subject "Managing growth and profits in the Yottabyte era." The recommendations discussed in the paper are slowly being adopted by various vendors and operators worldwide.
  • The global mobile data traffic exceeded an Exabyte for the first time in 2009. In fact, the data usage is growing so fast that this year, the two territories experiencing the most growth – North America and Western Europe are both going to exceed an Exabyte in mobile data traffic.
  • 2009 also marked the year when the global data traffic (monthly) exceeded the global voice traffic.
  • For many of the superphone heavy operators, devices like iPhone and Android account for more than 50% of their total data traffic.
  • 2010 will mark the first year when the total number of mobile broadband connections will exceed the total number of fixed broadband connections.

For more mobile data traffic analysis, please stay tuned for the second edition of our Yottabyte research


  • India continues to be the hottest market on the planet in terms of net-adds with (again) a world record-setting month in Jan 2010 with 19.9 million net adds. To give you a perspective, this is almost 1.5 times  the number of subscribers US added in the whole year. It is like adding a Canadian wireless market every month. For the year 2009, India added 177 million subs vs. 106 million for China. Combined, one year of growth in these two market is equivalent to the size of the third largest market – the US, to date. Making money on the net-adds is a different proposition all together (more discussion on the international market in our global market update later this month)
  • Thanks to the explosive growth in the emerging markets, the global mobile market went past 4.6B in 2009 and is likely to cross the 5B mark in 2010. The global mobile subscriptions now represent over 68% of human population on planet earth.
  • China crossed the 700M subscription mark in July while India’s total went past 500 in Nov. In the meantime, US crossed the 90% subscriptions mark in 2009.
  • In the last 10 years, the growth patterns in the mobile industry have completely reversed. In 1998, the developed world accounted for 76% of the subscriber base, in 2008; the percentages have flipped with developing world now accounting for 76% of the subscriber base and are likely to increase to 85% by 2018.
  • The top 10 nations by subscriptions are: China, India, US, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Germany, Pakistan and Italy.
  • China Mobile became the first operator (and likely to be the only one for a very long time) to cross the 500M mark. It remains the #1 carrier in terms of the total number of subscriptions followed by Vodafone. Telefonica, América Móvil, Telenor, T-Mobile, China Unicom, TeliaSonera, Orange, and Bharti Airtel round up the top 10 largest telecom groups in the world.

Mobile Apps

· The total number of app downloads in 2009 reached 7 billion resulting in approximately $4.1B in revenues 12% of which was from mobile advertising.

· The number of non-carrier appstores jumped to 38 from 8 in the previous year.

· While Asia had the highest percentage of the download share, North America had the highest share of the apps revenue accounting for over 50% of the total revenue.

· The paid ASP in 2009 was approximately $1.9 and the advertising revenue generated from the free applications was approximately $0.09/user/app/year

For a more detailed analysis of the mobile apps market, please see our paper “Sizing the Global Mobile Apps Market”


  • Messaging still accounts for the lion-share of data service revenues. However, other services such as Mobile Music, Mobile TV and video streaming, Voice navigation, PNDs, Mobile Games, IMS, LBS, Mobile advertising, and others have gradually chipped away the share from messaging. Alternate devices with wholesale cellular agreements are also flooding the market. In Japan, Mobile Commerce is expected to do much better than Mobile Advertising. Though not much talked about, enterprise applications are also being adopted widely esp. in North America as more workers become mobile and corporations seek efficiencies in their operations and supply-chain.
  • Nokia dominated the year as usual but the revenue share is shrinking and so is the lucrative smartphone share. Apple, RIM, and Google are relentlessly attacking the top tier while Samsung, LG, and others giving a tough fight for the bottom tier. We see a new middle tier emerging that has the form factor of a featurephone and functionality of a smartphone. The smartphone category is getting further split into regular qwerty smartphones like Blackberry and the touch and full browser based superphones like the iPhone and Droid.
  • The year was dominated by several blockbuster device launches like the iPhone 3GS.
  • Next few years will be big for infrastructure providers as many countries both developed and developing get into upgrading their infrastructure.
  • Willcom, the small Japanese carrier that started the flat-rate unlimited phenomenon filed for bankruptcy last month.
  • In the US, the increase in messaging volume catapulted US as the number one texting nation by messages/user/month going past the long-time leader Philippines.
  • Deployment of 3.5G technologies is in full swing. However, it is the discussion of 4G that is occupying the headlines, even though 4G hasn’t been fully defined yet and the current candidates for 4G are nowhere near the performance goals of 4G (150Mbps/50+Mbps). Many larger operators have laid out their plans for deploying LTE starting this year.
  • We are also seeing regulators playing an active role in making the markets competitive and attractive in the long-term.

· The velocity with which the smartphones are being introduced into the market esp. the western markets, one wonders if in five years, we will be using the moniker to describe devices and if the "dumbness" in the device market will be practically eliminated. Led by Apple’s Appstore success, significant investments are pouring into the appstore world. In parallel, the debate over apps vs. mobile web is intensifying. The implications of the transition will be significant on the ecosystem on many levels.

2010 will be a critical year on many fronts. As usual, 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 2010. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be released in Sept 2010.

Your feedback is always welcome.


Chetan Sharma

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

Mobile Breakfast Series Event Roundup March 12, 2010

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,AORTA,ARPU,Carriers,CTIA,European Wireless Market,International Trade,Japan Wireless Market,Location Based Services,Middleware,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Content,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Mobile Traffic,Music Player,MVNO,Privacy,Smart Phones,Speaking Engagements,US Wireless Market,VoIP,Wi-Fi,WiMax,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 3 comments

Wednesday Morning we hosted the third edition (sold out) of the Mobile Breakfast Series and were grateful for the time and insights from two outstanding speakers. Thanks to our sponsors for the support: Motricity, Openwave, WDSGlobal, and Clearwire

First up was Kevin Martin, former FCC Chairman and current co-chair of the communications practice and partner at the leading law firm of Patton Boggs in Washington DC.

Second speaker was Rob Glaser, Chairman and Founder, Real Networks. This was his first public appearance since he stepped down as CEO of Real Networks.

Kevin talked about the National Broadband Plan that is going to be released this coming tuesday and Rob opined on the opportunities in mobile. I had the good fortune of asking and moderating the Q&A after the initial presentation.

Summary of his comments:

Rob’s talk (embedded below) was about the opportunities created by the introduction of smartphone/superphones over the next 34 years.

Opportunities are:

and of course challenges are:

In summary,

After the intense 30 minute talk that the sold out crowd tried to absorb as much as possible, I asked him what Real would do if he were starting today. And there was a similar question from Andy Kleitsch from Billing Revolution about advise to startups. Here is some of what he had to say (courtesy: Techflash)

On the question of vertical vs. horizontal integration (question from Tricia Duryee of Moconews), he had this to say (courtsey: Techflash)

His presentation below:

We also announced the June 10th event that will all about Mobile Startups. Registration is open. It should be a great discussion with startup CEOs.

Also, announced the Sept 8th event which is of the long-form (day long) – Mobile Future Forward. Great speakers and useful discussion. Stay tuned for more details. We are working feverishly on the details.

Many thanks to our generous sponsors who believe in the vision behind the MFF event – Real Networks and Millennial Media. Your support is much appreciated.


Finally, a personal thanks to all those of you who helped out. You know who you are. We are a pretty lean operation and need assistance from our friends to make every event successful and useful to the mobile community.

Overall, we had as much fun hosting the event as we had in preparing for it. Please let us know your feedback.

Some pictures from the event:

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Some additional coverage of the event by some of the most outstanding reporters in the industry – Seattle Times, Techflash, Moconews, GigaOM, and PC World. Thanks.











2010 Mobile Industry Predictions Survey January 3, 2010

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2010 Mobile Industry Predictions Survey


Mobile Predictions Survey (pdf)

Mobile Predictions Survey (ppt)

First things first. From all of us at Chetan Sharma Consulting, we wish you and yours a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2010. Thanks to all who participated in our 2010 Mobile Predictions Annual Survey. We have found it is the best way to think about the trends coming our way.

Before we dive into the survey results, let’s do a quick wrap-up of the year that was. Well, since we  just completed one heck of a mobile decade, let’s do a quick jog down the memory lane.

The Last Decade: 2000-2009

Each new decade brings its own consumer and technology trends. During the 2000s mobile cemented its place in the global society fabric, the use of mobility became addictive and pervasive, to be without mobile seemed a curse and innovation blossomed and took user expectations to new heights.


From a pure statistical point of view, the global mobile subscription penetration grew from 12% in 2000 to approximately 68% in 2009 – phenomenal by any measure. The overall revenues grew over 400%, the data revenue grew 32,600% and the total subscriptions grew 563%. NTT DoCoMo paved the way with the i-mode launch in 1999 and they were the operator to emulate throughout the last decade, leading every single year in data revenues, in new application and service revenue sources, and in innovation and risk taking. They tried to export the success to other regions with little reward but DoCoMo clearly led the industry in taking mobile devices where they have never gone before.

China and India were late to the party but during the second half of the decade caught up with the western world and eventually surpassed all nations becoming number one and two nations by subscriptions respectively. In 2006, China Mobile became the most valuable operator passing Vodafone.

Mobile devices went significant transformation as well. From the early Bluetooth, camera, and music phones to the iPhones, the Storms, and the Androids, the industry was transformed by the introduction of Apple’s iPhone in 2007. While Bluetooth, sleek designs, camera phone defined the first half of the decade, the second half was all about the applications and the mobile web. While Nokia dominated the entire decade in terms of the sales and profits, having missed the touch revolution, it leaves the decade a bit battered and a bit behind playing catch-up to the newcomers who profoundly disturbed the status quo.


Razr carried Motorola through 2006 when its global share peaked but was left to reinvent itself during the second half. It seems to have redeemed itself with the successful launch of Droid and upcoming Android devices. While many in the industry predicted RIM’s demise, the company has only gotten stronger and is looking good for the 2010s. The emergence of Samsung and LG as strong players in the mobile ecosystem was also a big story of the decade with Samsung increasing its share by 380% and LG by 575% becoming the number 2 and 3 players respectively.

While Microsoft’s Windows Mobile had an early start and the enterprise market share, it lost its way through several missteps and is on dialysis as we enter the new decade. One shouldn’t count WM out though but there is a lot of work to be done before it can capture the imagination of the ecosystem which has been sequestered away by iPhone and Android.

While many new application areas were introduced during 2000s, none was able to displace SMS as the leading app category by usage and revenues. However, it’s relative share has started to come down especially in North America and Western Europe.

As data usage grew, so did the data traffic bringing many data networks to their knees. We expect the data traffic consumption to only accelerate. Many people are underestimating the growth rates (as they did previously) and the strain the increase in consumption will put on the unprepared networks. Projector phones will take media  consumption to a new level. Data management is going to be big business in the 2010s.

Overall, the mobile industry became a trillion dollar industry in 2008 and the data revenues are increasing in almost all regions. Voice is being commoditized at fast pace and that has put the traditional economics and ecosystem wealth distribution in topsy-turvy.


The US market also experienced tremendous growth with mobile data service revenues climbing 21,327% and becoming a mainstay in the mobile economy. In 2008 it crossed Japan as the most valuable mobile data market. US was late in adopting SMS but caught fire once American Idol started using it and even played a good role in the 2008 Presidential election in showcasing the power of mobile. Verizon started the decade being the number one operator and after trading places with Cingular and ATT grabbed the title back in 2009 (after the Alltel acquisition) to become the most dominant carrier in North America. Many smaller players competed by being innovative with Cincinnati Bell launching the fist UMA device, Sprint the first mobile eReader, and TMO launched the hotspot business which has now become an essential component of an operator strategy going forward.

Mobile is also replacing landline at a much faster pace than expected and within the first half of the new decade, we will have majority of the users using mobile vs. landline. Just like the last decade, this one starts with a new standard deployment of LTE that will keep operators and vendors busy throughout the decade. However, a lot of the developing markets will still be deploying 3G during the first half of the decade.

Infrastructure providers suffered the most in the decade bookended by the two recessions. Consolidation of giants (Alcatel Lucent, Nokia Siemens), bankruptcies of the famous (Nortel), and uprising of the upstarts (Huawei) pretty much defined the decade for the segment. Ericsson and Huawei enter the new decade from a strong position and looking to dominate the global markets.

The last decade was also marked by some prominent IP battles such as RIM vs. NTP, Qualcomm vs. Broadcom, Sony Ericsson vs. Samsung, Upaid vs. Satyam etc. (disclaimer: we worked on some of these cases and testified as an expert)

Here is our “subjective” list of movers and shakers of the last decade



Operator of the Decade


DCM led the way in almost all new category of apps and services. Its data service revenue was highest in each of the last 10 years

DCM will continue to lead along with KDDI and SKT. However, it might be the carriers with tremendous scale who will have the calling cards in the new decade. Watch for China Mobile, Vodafone/Verizon, Telefonica, Orange, Bharti, Unicom, Singtel

OEM of the Decade


Nokia dominated in sales and revenues in each of the 10 years and while the last couple of years took some shine off its glorious past, the company nevertheless came out ahead

RIM, Apple, Nokia, Samsung

Smartphone OEM of the Decade


Smartphones as we know them were introduced by RIM but Apple defined the category and the subsequent ecosystem

This space will be very competitive with Apple still the gold standard to beat

Infrastructure Provider of the Decade


Its prime rivals struggled to stay afloat while Ericsson grabbed most of the revenues from infrastructure contracts and is very well positioned for the next decade

Ericsson is joined by Huawei as the two top infrastructure provider with Huawei giving tough competition for LTE contracts. ZTE and other Chinese infrastructure providers will also replace some of the incumbents

Nation that led in mobile data


This is a no brainer. Japan led with Korea a close second. Finland, UK also impressed

US, China, and India are well positioned to make an impression but most likely during the second half. Japan will still be a major player

Device of the decade

iPhone followed by Razr

iPhone impressed with form and function while Razr with its global sales making it a top selling device of all times

The field might get more crowded as all OEMs focusing on the smartphone category. However, OEMs who also focus on the 90% of the market w/o smartphones might win the top prize

The year 2009

Apple continued to dominate the headlines for the third straight year – whether it was the launch of 3GS or the upcoming introduction of the fabled tablet. Google too kept the ecosystem active. It has executed on its mobile strategy with brilliant acumen though causing significant consternation amongst its partners who it needs to be successful. It has been often misunderstood by competitors, regulators, and partners. Often, they have focused on Google’s tactics vs. its strategy. Look for these two players to be very aggressive as they try to fight for the mantle and the mindshare.

While Nokia leads the OEM space by a good distance, its momentum in the smartphone space left a lot of question marks. Motorola made a credible comeback with Cliq and Droid. Samsung and LG continued to innovate and expanded on their share of shipments and revenues.

India outpaced China in net-adds and crossed 500M though it is still quite behind China’s 750M. The M&A and the consolidation process became active in Asia with several of the big regional operators looking to flex muscles in the international markets. After several delays, China started deploying 3G while India again fumbled and postponed its 3G auction.

US mobile data market continued its pace in 2009 with each of the four quarters exceeding $10B in data service revenues. The gap between the top two operators and the rest grew to be the biggest in the decade and the industry weathered the recession with ease. There was a clear shift towards prepaid especially for Sprint, T-Mobile, and the tier 2/3 operators.

2009 was also defined by significant activity on the application front. With Facebook eclipsing 100M subscribers and Appstore exceeding 2.5B downloads, sky is the limit.

The year also saw an unprecedented growth in mobile data consumption. As we had predicted, for some of the networks, the growth proved to be a double-edged sword. Many in the industry are banking on LTE to help relieve the pain but will be surprised that depending solely on the upgrade strategy will not be enough. Declaring spectrum as a looming crisis, FCC also started tinkering with the mobile industry and the broadband plan.

Japan exceeded 90% in 3G penetration while US subscriptions ventured into the 90% territory. Most of western Europe is way past 130%.

All in all, a terrific year considering that we went through one of the worst recessions in a generation. As we bid goodbye to the last decade, Nexus One and iTablet only serve to whet our appetite of what’s to come.

On a personal note, we started our consulting practice this last decade as we were coming out of the bubble recession and have been fortunate to work with some of the brightest brains and companies in the global ecosystem. We also had a chance to work on some key initiatives that impacted the ecosystem in profound ways. Many thanks to our clients, colleagues, friends, and readers. We will be involved with many new initiatives over the next decade and are looking forward to the conversations through the research notes, books, speeches, panels, whitepapers, blog posts, facebook and twitter feeds, and more.

Thanks and Happy New Year. May the upcoming decade leave you happier, healthier, and more successful than the previous one.

As we eluded to earlier, 2010 will be a pretty eventful year from several perspectives: business models, user experience and expectations, ecosystem posturing, disruption, and friction. How are things going to shape up? What will be hot and what will fade into oblivion? How will competition shape up the new sub-segments?

We put some of the questions to our colleagues in the industry. We were able to glean some valuable insights from their choices and comments. This survey is different from some of the others in the sense that it includes industry movers and shakers participation. Executives and insiders (n=150) from leading mobile companies across the value chain and around the world opined to help us see what 2010 might bring.

11 names were randomly drawn for 3 special prizes. The winners are:

  1. Claire Boonstra, Cofounder, Layar- INQMobile 3G Chat device

  2. Michael Libes, CTO, GroundTruth – Open Mobile Book

  3. Henri Moissinac, Head of Mobile, Facebook – Open Mobile Book

  4. Subba Rao, CEO, TataDoCoMo – Open Mobile Book

  5. Saumil Gandhi, Product Manager, Microsoft – Open Mobile Book

  6. Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Connected Planet – Open Mobile Book

  7. Mike Vanderwoude, VP & GM, Cincinnati Bell Wireless – 2010 Mobile Almanac

  8. Pinney Colton, VP, GfK – 2010 Mobile Almanac

  9. Tim Chang, Principal, Norwest Ventures – 2010 Mobile Almanac

  10. Laura Marriott, President – 2010 Mobile Almanac

  11. Asha Vellaikal, Director, Orange – 2010 Mobile Almanac

Thanks to INQMobile and my friend Ajit Jaokar for contributing the prize gifts.

Despite conventional wisdom, what will not happen in 2010?

There were many. Sampling – Verizon iPhone, Microsoft Phone, Sprint will not be bought, Femtocells won’t gain traction, RCS will not happen, Google will not enter handset market directly, iPhone won’t lose steam, Android won’t bring coherence, NFC won’t take off, WiMAX won’t disappear, Nokia won’t bounce back, Palm won’t die, “Year of Mobile” noise won’t subside, carriers won’t be delegated as dumb-pipes.

It is hard to cover the mobile industry in 20 questions. As pointed out by our panelists, there are a number of other issues and opportunities that will help shape our ecosystem – monetization of social networks, augmented reality, the fight for mobile advertising dollars, continued impact of globalization, security and privacy, NFC, IMS, VoIP, enterprise apps beyond email, battery improvements, new interaction modalities, health risks of RF radiation, Mobile 3.0, LTE, single purpose devices, 3G in India, Bada, app vs web, developer turmoil, featurephones, smart grids, M2M, Chrome, etc.

However, be rest assured, we will be tracking these and much more throughout the year and sharing them through various channels.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed. We will be calling on you again next year. We are clearly living in "interesting times" with never a dull moment in our dynamic industry. It has been a terrific year for us here at Chetan Sharma Consulting and we are looking forward to the next decade and seeing many of you along the way.

We hope you enjoyed gaining from the collective wisdom. Your feedback is always welcome.

Be well, Do Cool Work, Stay in touch.


With warm wishes,

Chetan Sharma

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

Now onto the 2010 Mobile Industry Predictions Survey Results

The panel comprised of movers and shakers from around the world

survey2_10 survey1_10

What will be the biggest stories of 2010?


Jan seems to be the Google Phone vs. Apple Tablet matchup. Our panel though voted for the continued growth in mobile data as the top story.

Have we recovered from the recession? (Please select one)


Majority thought we are out of it though some might still feel the pinch

Who will be the most open player in the mobile ecosystem in 2010? (Please select one)


Google has done a great job at maintaining its image as THE open leader

Will Android handset sales exceed iPhone’s in 2010? (Please select one)


Despite Androids coming in droves, iPhone will still be the king of the hill

When will we see tiered pricing plans for smartphones in the US from tier 1 operators? (Please select one)


There are indications that this might happen sooner rather than later

What will happen to the mobile prepaid subscriber base in the US? (Please select one)


Prepaid made a strong comeback in 2009 and a good majority thought that the trend is likely to continue

By how much will the mobile advertising ad-spend increase in 2010? (Please select one)


Mobile Advertising was the only advertising segment with positive growth last year so it is no surprise that folks expect it to more than double this year

What will be the impact of the FCC’s national broadband plan on the mobile industry in 2010? (Please select one)


Not much is expected from the various rulings that might come this year with most expecting the courts to have the final word.

Who will be the mobile comeback story of 2010?


Having bet its future on Android, Motorola was voted as the comeback kid of 2010

What will be the impact of Google Phone?


It’s pretty clear, Google and Apple are duking it out for the developer mindshare. Google wins in either case.

Which areas will feel the most impact from FCC?


Net neutrality is the area where they will have the most impact

Which solutions will gain the most traction for managing mobile data broadband consumption?


While only a holistic approach can provide complete relief, tiered mobile data pricing might have the most impact

When will the carrier-branded appstores lose steam? (Please select one)


Most expect carrier-branded appstores to be a thing of the past in 2010

What will help mobile cloud computing gain traction in 2010?


Mobile cloud computing is gaining steam and the reason is storage and media

What will be the most successful non-mobile-phone category in 2010? (Please select one)


Netbooks seem to be the strongest category followed by eReaders, Tablet, and M2M

What will be the breakthrough category in mobile in 2010? (Please select one)


Mobile Advertising and Mobile Payments share the top honors

By the end of 2010, which will have more subscribers? (Please select one)


LTE might have the momentum but WiMAX has the subscribers

How will Netbooks do through the operator channel? (Please select one)


No major impact from the operator channel

Which standards will gain traction?


No major impact from the standards

What mode of mobile payments will get any traction in North America and Western Europe in 2010?


The category will expand in different ways with more items being charged on the operator bill

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.

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

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US Wireless Data Market Update Q408 and 2008

Download PPT (1.9MB)

Download PDF (3.1MB)


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.

DoCoMo Labs Masters of Innovation July 2, 2008

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Yesterday, I had the honor to present at DoCoMo Labs annual Masters of Innovation program in Palo Alto along with Julie Ask of Jupiter and Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies. The event was made possible by Richard Felix of Aesthetics Scientist. The theme for the afternoon was “What’s to come in the next 2-3 years?” Given my recent work on Mobile Advertising, I talked about what we can expect in the coming days, who the main players are going to be, etc.

Berna Erol, Senior Research Scientist from Ricoh California Research Center was present at the event and did a pretty nice summary. An excerpt below:

Chetan Sharma, President of Technology and Strategy Consulting, talked about mobile advertising. He made a good point that when thinking about mobile advertising one should not only think about cell phones but also other mobile devices such as Amazon’s Kindle, iPod Touch, etc.

Chetan emphasized that from advertisers point of view, the following points are most important:

1. Reach: How many people you can touch with your advertisement
2. Targeting/Purity: Reaching the right target audience
3. Effectiveness: Measuring the effectiveness of the advertisement, does user take any action?
4. Efficiency: Getting the benefit and revenue increase for the money spent on advertising.

Clearly mobile advertising has advantages especially in advertising targeting and measuring the effectiveness of the advertisement.

            Chetan predicts that mobile advertisement will be
            bigger than online advertisement and the mobile ad business
            has potential to be $20B industry by 2013.

When I was listening Chetan I was thinking how annoying it would be to receive mobile advertisements. Then, unknowingly Chetan made a comment and made me a believer: He thinks that idle screen of mobile phones are the holly grail of mobile advertisement, everything will start from there. He thinks, and I agree, people would be willing to receive advertisement and coupon on their idle screen, especially in exchange for reduced monthly mobile provider fees. Another good point was that the location based advertisements (e.g., a restaurant coupon can be delivered when you are close by) would be very important in the near future.

Julie had some really good insights into the social networking impact on mobile while Tim talked the consumer adoption of various technologies over time. Like most, he is a big fan of iPhone.

After our presentations, Ken of Kenradio fame moderated a 90 minute panel discussion and we covered pretty much everything under the sun.

Btw, just for the record, i talked quite a bit about the steps necessary to help enable the market reach $20B in 5 years. Lot of work needs to be done and we have to watch the trigger points.

Recap of Mobile Advertising Events – Stanford and Seattle March 22, 2008

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This week I had the opportunity to moderate two distinguished panels on Mobile Advertising in two days, one at Stanford University and the other one in Seattle. This post summarizes the issues and points discussed during these two sessions.

Stanford University by Mobile Momentum

The first one was part our book tour and was organized by Mobile Momentum, an organization lead by Prof. Tom Kosnik and his student Mohit Gundecha. The event was sponsored by three of the pioneers in Mobile Advertising space – AdInfuse, Admob, and Rhythm New Media. My co-author Victor Melfi and I walked through some of the salient points of our book. We discussed the history of advertising, the digital revolution of the Internet, delved a bit into the definition of mobile advertising, the challenges and accelerators of this nascent industry, pondered over the business models, illustrated some of the successes using the case studies and our five-points framework (reach, engagement, targeting, viral, and transactions), briefly touched on the technology issues and gave our 2c on what it will take for the industry to go from its current state of “cautious optimism” to promise of “contextual nirvana.” Some of the key points were:

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Our talk was followed by a panel discussion with Ujjal Kohli, CEO, Rhythm New Media, Tony Nethercutt, VP, Admob, and David Staas, VP, AdInfuse. All these guys have had distinguished careers in mobile, advertising, and digital evolution of our industry and hence the depth of knowledge on the panel was just great. Each of them has had successes with campaigns around the world, not just in North America. Admob with its billions of impressions every few weeks has blazed the way in the off-deck world. Rhythm has been quite successful with advertising with mobile video snacking at 3 in UK.

AdInfuse has been running some interesting campaigns in Europe like with Swisscom.They were achieving 8% CTR on WAP banner campaigns, 50% of users who clicked through to the WAP landing page completed a purchase. Recall rates were as high as 27%, more than 80% of the users rated the model of “free video content in return of advertising” positively vs. 2% who didn’t like the idea. Rhythm has also experienced similar numbers with their 3 UK campaigns. It is remarkable that 40% of the subscriber base is using the service and one can still watch the ad subsidized videos even if they have run out of prepaid minutes. The reach provided by Admob to its advertisers is phenomenal. Coca-cola’s campaign touched 125 countries. We cover Rhythm’s and Admob’s case studies in more detail in our book as well.

We touched on a wide variety of topics and I was struck by something that Ujjal said. He was previously CMO of AirTouch Cellular so brings in a very unique perspective to the table. He said, “For the carrier, No amount of Mobile Advertising Revenue is worth the risk of losing a customer.” The issues around privacy, customer satisfaction, customer care costs are critical for an operator to assess as they dive deeper into this new emerging medium.

There are a number of developers who are interested in exploiting the opportunity of mobile advertising but don’t want to deal with the complexity of the ecosystem and ad networks. There is an opportunity for some of the existing players to open up the APIs to broaden the reach.

Seattle by TiE

Next day, TiE Seattle organized a panel discussing “Mobile Advertising: Making the most of the next generation in advertising.” The panelists were Scott Silk, CEO, ActionEngine, Brian Lent, CEO, Medio Systems, Eric Hertz, CEO, Zumobi, Jeff Giard, Director, Alltel, and Jason Guenther, Director, Disney. Again, a pretty diverse panel representing various players in the value chain.

I started by probing the panelists on how we go about defining “Mobile Advertising.” Brian, not surprisingly, thought Mobile Search is going to take a lion share of the revenues just like how things evolved in the online world. Eric and Scott articulated their view around On-Device Portals, Widgets, and User Experience. Action Engine has been having good success with many of the large media brands such as MSNBC and WSJ while Zumobi has come out with a platform that takes user experience at the center of its strategy.

Though at number 5, Alltel has been introducing innovations quicker than some of its peers. Its Celltop application is yielding significant results with over 400% increase in usage if the application is within Celltop framework. Next, they are going to be putting the Celltop as a Home Screen (Idle Screen) app like what Koreans and Japanese have been doing for some time. It was refreshing for Jeff to right away state that this industry is not going to move forward if we don’t solve the “fragmentation” problem. I have said before that “Fragmentation is the biggest enemy of the mobile industry” and w/o solving the issues of fragmentation at different layers, we won’t get into the hypergrowth mode that will take the industry from $2B today to $20B in five years. Jeff thought that mobile advertising presents significant opportunities for the industry including the carriers but we need to be mindful of the issues around privacy, customer care, and customer satisfaction.

Disney is world’s premier consumer brand and very few companies understand the three screens better than Disney. Jason’s perspective on how mobile fits into the larger picture was an important one. He views mobile as a critical channel for any content company but reminded that a lot of work needs to be done in terms of standardization, metrics, auditing, and  privacy before mobile advertising becomes a thriving industry.

In both places, audience was well informed and highly engaged. Questions ranged from business models to technology intricacies. People didn’t think some of the newer MVNO models like that from Blyk will last too long and that for the trends will different for different geographies. For example, in emerging markets, mobile is going to be the only means to bring digital advertising to the masses, a point we make in our book as well. Will high-end phones be free subsidized by advertising as Eric Schmidt had proclaimed, well, don’t bet your life on it, at least not just yet though if someone like Google makes up its mind, it can, as Victor says, “make the market.”

I really enjoyed engaging with the panelists and the audience. Plenty of questions, we could have gone on for hours if not days. It was quite hectic but fun. Next week, I am moderating a panel “Mobile Mania – Show me the Money” at Washington Technology Industry Association and then facilitating a developer forum “Mobile Jam Session” at CTIA on 31st. On 24th April, I will be giving a class on Mobile Advertising at Stanford University (Prof. Kosnik’s course) and the same evening, I head to Sacramento to give a talk being organized by TechCoire on “Mobile Advertising: A $20B Opportunity?” In May, on the 13th, I will be in NY giving a talk on mobile advertising to the advertising executives, on 20th will be doing a book event being organized by CommNexus in San Diego, and on 21st will be moderating a panel discussion on the promise of mobile advertising at the highly regarded Future In Review Conference.

Hope to see some of you on these sojourns.

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.

Mobile Industry Predictions – 2008 January 1, 2008

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I never think of future, it comes soon enough – Albert Einstein

First things first. Wish you a very happy and successful 2008.

Before we look at what’s to come, let’s do a quick wrap-up of the year that was.

2007 will clearly be remembered as “the year of iPhone.” While there were several other “events/trends of interest” through-out the year, nothing captured the imagination of the world like the iPhone. It was significant for another big reason – it had a profound impact on the business model and ecosystem dynamics. Q4 2007 was also significant for the deafening roar that resonated around “Openness”.

Steve Ballmer exclaimed mobile to be the next battleground while Eric Schmidt pondered why mobile phones are not free (subsidized by Google ads of course).

Google played its chess game effectively and though it is unlikely to play to win the 700 MHz auction or even if they do win would be able to do anything substantive in the short-term, they did, however, with Android and spectrum gambit, force some of the regulation-wary operators to take a stance on openness. Nokia is putting together a brilliant services strategy that looks to connect directly to the consumer. Competition and coopitition will have a different meaning going forward.

Things were looking positive for WiMAX until the end of the year when Clearwire was left standing on its own. It will look towards Google, Sprint, Motorola, and others to rescue its fate.

Mobile Advertising was hailed as a great savior of mobile content and mobile revenues in general. Blyk even launched an advertising-based MVNO. We made significant headway in energizing the sub segment but the tough problems of privacy, education, control, fragmentation, and user experience remain. LBS picked up steam and mobility started to get into the alternate consumer device universe.

In terms of actual dollars, mobile data market continued its steady growth with substantial shifts in revenue towards non-SMS data applications and services. Several operators are doing $2B/quarter+ in data revenues. Several subscription milestones throughout the year: 3B worldwide, 500M China, 250M US, 225M India. 3G continued to inch towards mass-market in western markets (20-25% penetration) while in Korea and Japan, it was getting hard to find people without 3G (70%+ penetration).

Among other events of significance: Cincinnati Bell and T-Mobile launched UMA devices, Motorola lost its Mojo, Amp’D and Disney Mobile shut down, MediaFLO launched, mCommerce initiatives took hold, China continued to delay 3G, WM got updated, Yahoo cemented some impressive operator deals as GYM got more active in mobile, UMPC fizzled, Mobile Web 2.0 got into the industry physce, LTE got embraced worldwide, M&A galored, IP scuffles continued, Muni projects went into coma, and DRM-adorned content became a thing of the past.

2008 will be a pretty eventful year from several perspectives: business models, user experience and expectations, ecosystem posturing, disruption, and friction. How are things going to shape up? What will be hot and what will fade into oblivion? How will competition shape up the new sub-segments? We put some of the questions to our colleagues in the industry. This survey was a bit different in the sense that the movers and shakers (and folks from the companies discussed here) and industry insiders participated. We were able to glean some valuable insights from their choices and comments. Participants (n=196) were folks from across the mobile value chain and from around the world.

Many thanks to everyone who participated.


(click for larger image)

Three names were drawn for a copy of our upcoming book “Mobile Advertising” (co-authored with Joe Herzog and Victor Melfi, John Wiley & Sons, 432 pages, Feb 2008).

The winners are:

  1. David Cushman, Director, Emap

  2. Larry Shapiro, VP, Disney, and

  3. Keith Kostuch, SVP, Alltel

Congrats and Thank you.

Now onto the survey analysis.

Figures above and below summarize the responses. We requested respondents to rate the probability of an event happening in 2008 on a scale 1 to 5. 1 being “Not a chance” to 5 being “100% probability” The figure above summarizes the overall probability of the event happening. The figure below provides the breakdown of responses.


1. Will Google introduce a Google Branded Phone in 2008?

Will it? Won’t it? 44.5% gave it a 75% or higher chance of happening while 40% thought it ain’t happening. GPhone is a temptation Google will find hard to resist though a lot will depend on how various initiatives and partnerships shape-up on the ground. In any case, expect another major announcement in the next 2-3 months.

2. Will Google play to win in the 700MHz Spectrum Auction?

Google has played the spectrum chess game effectively. Almost 50% respondents gave it a 75% or higher chance of Google winning the bid. Though expectations are high, Google is unlikely to play to win. Services business is not their cup of tea, they could still fund the Clearwire-Sprint deal but that investment can be spent differently to get better end-results, i.e. mobile ad revenue.

3. Will Microsoft launch its own mobile phone?

Unless Google comes out with GPhone, Microsoft will stay content with its operator distribution strategy. 63% of respondents gave it less than a 25% chance of Microsoft releasing their own phone. If GPhone comes out and gets some traction, expect Microsoft to get its “fast follower” strategy into high gear.

4. Will Mobile Payments get traction in North America and Western Europe?

Only 9% thought it is a sure bet for 2008. True mobile commerce hasn’t really started in the western world. While there are significant movements, 2008 will just be a “lay the groundwork” year for mobile payments.

5. Will WiMAX regroup from its setbacks?

Only 35% gave it a 75% or higher chance (of WiMAX resurrecting itself esp. in the US in 2008). A lot depends on how Mr. Hesse deals with Sprint’s WiMAX business. Indications are there will be a deal with Clearwire to off-load the risks via some external investment (Google?).

6. Will Helio survive 2008?

Almost 70% respondents thought Helio won’t make it. Given the flameout of some of the prominent new-generation MVNOs, it is hard to see how Helio will see 2009. It will all come down to how persistent is SK Telecom. Earthlink doesn’t have the bank balance to keep funding this initiative.

7. Will Verizon truly open-up its garden for third-party visitations?

Only 5% thought it is a sure bet for 2008. Verizon’s open posturing was more to ward off any regulators and to improve its image. There is unlikely to be any meaningful progress on this front this year.

8. Will 2008 be the inflection year for Mobile Advertising?

42% gave Mobile Advertising a 75% or higher chance for rapid growth. Market will mature, more consolidation, some privacy gaffes but overall things are looking up for mobile advertising.

9. Will Femto-Cells gain any significant momentum in 2008?

It will be an introduction and experimentation year, so no significant traction is expected. Over 52% thought Femto-Cells will be just a buzz word in 2008.

10. Will Nokia be able to extract iPhone-style rev-share from carriers in 2008?

Less than 20% thought Nokia will be able to do an Apple when it comes to rev-share arrangements. For OEMs, going direct to the consumers was considered treachery to the sacrosanct relationship with the operators. Until Apple showed up with iPhone. Now, Nokia is putting its services strategy in motion and is building a direct relationship with the consumers worldwide and it has a good shot at pulling it off though it will be a long haul.

11. Will Palm survive 2008?

Only 8% gave it a 100% chance of surviving 08 as an independent entity. It will be difficult for Palm to stay in a status-quo mode. They desperately need a hit device that can give them some breathing room.  Given all the operational and strategic problems the company is having, a sale is likely.

12. Will iPhone truly open up?

Over 45% thought iPhone won’t open-up in any meaningful way. Apple has built-up one of the most profitable closed empires in the digital world. Are they about open things up? While the iPhone SDK is scheduled for early 08, don’t hold your breath on accessing the critical native APIs.

13. Will there be more unsubsidized devices introduced in the US market in 2008?

Almost 49% thought we are likely to see another unsubsidized device in the US market this year. Nokia is looking to go direct and some GSM handset manufacturers are likely to entertain the idea of testing the market with unsubsidized devices.

14. Will Mobile TV move the needle in 2008?

Almost 70% thought mobile TV won’t make much of a difference in 08.Though AT&T is slated to introduce MediaFLO to join Verizon in the Mobile TV services market, lack of devices and better pricing models will hinder wide adoption in 2008. However, downloadable video and VOD content will experience significant growth.

15. Will Android make a dent in handset shipments in 2008?

Only 15% gave it a more than 75% chance this year. It is going to take some time for Android plans to mature and materialize. Don’t see any material impact in 08.

Of course, 15 questions can’t cover the whole industry. As pointed out our respondents, there are a number of other issues and opportunities that will shape the ecosystem – Rise of Facebook as social networking OS for mobile (social networking as a whole starts to go mobile), LBS beyond navigation, Rev-share shuffles, Chinese OEM start to become prominent in the western world, China and India continue to dominate in net-adds, Mobile device security becomes a nightmare for corporate IT, Consumers wake up to mobile privacy snafus and risks, Will Android spread its tentacles beyond nicheosphere, 3G iPhone, Does China Olympics hold any surprises for the mobile industry? Launch of projection handsets, NFC handsets, IMS .. and much much more ..

All in all, consternation and debate will continue into 2008. We will analyze, dissect, and report as events unfold in the new year.

Look forward to the continuing dialogue and meeting with you in person.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

US Wireless Data Market Update – Q3 2007 November 18, 2007

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US Wireless Data Market Update – Q3 2007

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US wireless data market continued its growth reaching $6.4B in service revenues for the third quarter. With the holiday quarter to go, the aggregate data revenues for the year are already past the 2006 data revenue mark. Whether it was the first full quarter of iPhone sales, or the debate on the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction, or the rumors swirling around the gPhone, or the continued M&A activity – the US wireless data market remained vibrant in Q3.  Given that majority of the data revenues now comes from non-messaging applications and services and the subscriber penetration for such services is just getting into the inflection zone, US remains one of the most attractive wireless data markets.

Global update (more details in our worldwide wireless data market update coming out in Q108)

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

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

Mobile Advertising Book Progress May 29, 2007

Posted by chetan in : AORTA,Carriers,Indian Wireless Market,Japan Wireless Market,Messaging,Middleware,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Entertainment,Mobile Search,Strategy,US Wireless Market,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 1 comment so far

Have been hiding working on the book for the last few days. Getting close to finishing up two more chapters

Market analysis

a. How big is the market?

i. Trends and forecasts

b. Implications of mobile advertising

c. Addressing the problem

i. The problem of mobile reach

ii. The problem of storefront

iii. The problem of understanding the customer

iv. Push vs. Pull

d. Publishers – the old and new guard

e. What do advertisers want?

i. Advertising industry growth

ii. How does mobile fit in?

iii. What ads might be mobile only? What ads might be multi-channel (Web, Mobile etc)

Mobile Advertising Value-Chain Analysis

a. Introduction: Mobile Advertising Value Chains

i. How does the value chain compare to other advertising mediums?

b. Messaging


d. Mobile Search

e. Local Search

f. Downloadables

g. Mobile Video/TV

h. Mobile Audio

i. Mobile Community

j. Directory Assistance

k. Code based

l. Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC

m. Active Screen

n. Differences in value chain across regions

o. Evolution of value chains

p. Takeaways


Have been interviewing many of the leaders in the space. More on that a bit later.