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US Wireless Market Update Q1 2013 June 20, 2013

Posted by chetan in : 3G,4G,4th Wave,AORTA,Chetan Sharma Consulting,Connected Devices,Infrastructure Providers,Mobile Future Forward,Mobile Patents,OTT,Speaking Engagements,US Wireless Market,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , add a comment

 US Wireless Market Update Q1 2013



The US mobile data market grew 2% Q/Q and 14% Y/Y to reach $21 billion in mobile data revenues. Data is now almost 45% of the US mobile industry service revenues and as we had forecasted a few years back, the cross-over point of 50% might occur later this year. For the year 2013, we are expecting $90 Billion in mobile data service revenues for the US market.

For the quarter, the market added a paltry 1.1 million new connections, a decline of 60% from Q1 2012. It was the lowest net-adds Q4 quarter in the US mobile history (barring the early days of tepid growth). The postpaid category added only 200K subs largely on the back of Verizon’s 677K net-adds.

AT&T sold more iPhones but Verizon sold more smartphones. With T-Mobile joining the iPhone bandwagon, iOS lead in the US market is likely to continue.

T-Mobile continued to lose their postpaid subs for the 11th straight quarter. Sprint also lost over half a million postpaid subs primarily due to the Nextel business. Once Nextel is sunsetted mid-2013 for good, we can expect a pick-up of net-postpaid subs at Sprint.

The see-saw battle between Softbank and Dish for Sprint/Clearwire continued as expected but as expected Softbank is likely to prevail when it is all said and done. After completing the Metro acquisition, T-Mobile started to integrate the 8M+ base into the company. We can expect that the next round of M&A will continue once we are done with the Sprint decision.

As we mentioned in our previous updates, smartphones are now past the 50% mark in the US and continue to sell at a brisk pace accounting for almost 85% of the devices sold in Q1 2013. Apple led the smartphone sales amongst the top 4 operators with 50% share for the quarter. While the US penetration of smartphones is over 50%, the 50% of the sub base is concentrated in only 30% of the households thus leaving plenty of growth in the marketplace.

In terms of Q/Q growth, Connected Devices segment grew 17%, Wholesale 5%, Prepaid 4%, and Postpaid was flat.

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

What really drives mobile device performance?

Will a 3rd mobile ecosystem emerge this year? Is it necessary? Specifically, what problem does it solve? What factors influence the purchase behavior of the consumer? And can OEMs change their strategy to impact sales? Why have Microsoft and Nokia not been able to make a dent in the trajectory despite having a compelling OS, range of devices, consumer-friendly price-points, better distribution, and increased level of advertising dollars? Will Blackberry be able to recover? Why hasn’t HTC One been able sell in similar numbers as the Galaxy S4 despite being better by most accounts? What will it take for LG to increase share? Can Motorola stay relevant? Can new entrants disrupt the waters? Can ZTE and Huawei come from the bottom and disrupt the top players? Will Apple and Samsung be able to protect their position on the top?

These questions have been a matter of intense debate in the media and in the ecosystem. We try to address these questions in some detail in our recent paper “What Really Drives Mobile Device Performance?” As I mentioned to the New York Times, it is no longer good enough to have a great product, an OEM needs to perform well across multiple variables.

The Fourth Wave and the shift towards services

It is evident that there is a subtle shift from devices/access to services/solutions. In our paper on the topic “Operator’s Dilemma (and opportunity): The Fourth Wave”, I proposed that we need a new framework to think about the next generation of revenue opportunities. The fourth curve opportunities are massive but require a different skill set and strategic approach than the past three curves. It is being widely adopted in the operator community around the world and some operators have started to break out the 4th wave revenues in their financials.

We will be discussing fourth wave in much more detail at our annual thought-leadership summit – Mobile Future Forward with the incredible leaders who are making billion dollar decisions every day.

OTT impact on legacy businesses and models

In the last 12 months, Whatsapp moved around more messages than all the mobile operators combined in any country and that includes US and China. US and China collectively have approximately 1.5 billion subscriptions. Whatsapp with its 200M base has moved more messages in the last 12 months than all the operators in both US and China combined. Ok, let that sink in for a few minutes. For a significantly small fraction of the cost, Whatsapp moves around more messages than every single telecom operator on the planet. Of course, Whatsapp makes a tiny fraction of the revenue compared to the operators. What Whatsapp and similar players lack in ubiquity and interoperability, they make it up by being the commodity utility provider at a low cost to the consumer. The notion of designing by a standards committee above the IP layer is just no longer needed in majority of the cases. Once you have the IP connection, consumers will gravitate towards innovative solutions and be willing to fragment their communication behavior across multiple apps. SMS will stay relevant for the foreseeable future but the growth is in IP communication. We will also see more cooperation between the IP app players and the operators as they find common strategic grounds.

We will see the same impact of IP and mobility on the various verticals like Retail, Energy, Education, Entertainment, Travel, etc. Some operators have been preparing for this shift and going outside their traditional products and services to launch services like AT&T’s Digital Life to address opportunities in the home, Verizon’s efforts in health and public safety and Sprint’s steps in mobile advertising and analytics.

Operator M&A – The Rule of Three Strikes Back

The M&A game continued with intense frenzy in the ecosystem. T-Mobile completed the Metro acquisition which gives it more heft and scale to compete as a value-player. However, the real drama has been going on with the Softbank and Sprint merger with Dish playing the role of the spoiler. Our original thesis has been that Softbank is a better fit than Dish and Dish’s strategic intention might actually be T-Mobile not Sprint. It was a masterful decoy to raise the cost and pain for Softbank and Sprint. It is likely to be all sorted out in the next few weeks.

There have been some interesting twists and turns but as we have stated before, the US market competitive equilibrium will be complete when Sprint and T-Mobile get together at some point down the road. As outlined in our research paper on the subject, market forces find their way to get to 3 dominant operators that compete for attention and revenues, rest becomes noise. While the regulators might scoff at the idea, the inevitable market forces will find their way around.

Operators with better balance sheets will also look for global expansion especially in Europe where economic impact on the telcom operators has been severe, however the M&A efforts will be complicated by respective governments desire to keep control of the national infrastructure provider.

The Patent Battles

In 2012, Samsung had a strong showing not only in the market place but also in the patents area. It edged past Nokia to become the overall mobile patents leader in the industry. IBM and Microsoft also improved their rankings. Nokia, Ericsson, and Alcatel-Lucent slid in rankings. Motorola dropped out of top 10. Not surprisingly, companies who have been around for a while especially in the infrastructure and the platform space lead the overall mobile patents. Samsung has been fiercely building its patent portfolio in both Europe and the US and the efforts have paid off as it has built a significant portfolio and a formidable lead that is likely to serve it well in the coming years.

A more startling observation is the mobile patent grants as a percentage of the total patent grants in a given year have risen significantly for the US market indicating the importance innovators attach to mobile in their business. In the US, one out of every five patent granted in 2012 was related to mobile. Less than a decade ago, this number was less than 10%. The European market has seen lower growth relative to the US market. Roughly one out of every ten patents granted in Europe are mobile related.

Samsung was the leader in the mobile patents granted in 2012 in the US and that propelled the company to the top ranking in overall patents (1996-2013). Samsung was followed by IBM, Sony, Microsoft, RIM, LG, Qualcomm, Ericsson, Panasonic, Alcatel-Lucent, and Nokia for the top 10 companies by mobile patent grants in 2012. The top 5 categories for patents grants in the US for 2012 were Telecommunications, Digital Multiplexing, Digital Processing – Data Transfer, Digital Processing – Financial, and Digital Processing – Databases. The top 5 filers of mobile patents in the US were IBM, Microsoft, Samsung, Qualcomm, and Sony. Apple made it to top 10 for the first time on the strength of its patents filed in the computer graphics processing category.

For more detailed analysis, please refer our research paper on the subject – Mobile Patents Landscape – An In-Depth Quantitative Analysis.

SMB leading indicator of mobile adoption

Small businesses are at the heart of the US economic engine. They represent roughly 45% of the non-farm GDP. Every administration, every president focuses on small business growth and job creation. In our paper “The ABCs of SMB Transformation: Apps, Broadband, and the Cloud,” we explored how mobile is transforming the SMBs. The main conclusions were: a) SMB segment is a leading indicator of technology adoption and we can learn a great deal about the broader trends by understanding how SMBs adopt technology b) there are tangible gains in productivity – on average SMB workers save 40 minutes per worker per day which translates into significant impact on profits and c) there is a tangible impact on computing, enterprise software and services as the business processes are shifting towards iOS and Android.

What to expect in the coming months?

All this has setup an absolutely fascinating 2013 in the communication/computing industry. Convergence is everywhere and is leading to a fundamental reset of the value chains and ecosystems. Players who firmly attach themselves to the 4th wave will reap benefits while the ones who miss it will see their fortunes dwindle. We are gearing up for our annual Mobile Brainstorm Summit – Mobile Future Forward on Sept 10th, hope you can join us.

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

Against this backdrop, the analysis of the Q1 2013 US wireless data market is:

Service Revenues



Shared Data Plans

Applications and Services

OTT and the impact on legacy services


Mobile Data Growth

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

We will be discussing a number of issues raised in this research update at our annual mobile executive thought-leadership summit – Mobile Future Forward on Sept 10th in Seattle. Thought-leaders include: Biju Nair, EVP and CSO, Synchronoss; Curtis Kopf, VP – Customer Innovation, Alaska Airlines; Danny Bowman, Chief Sales and Operating Officer, Samsung; David Small, Chief Platform Officer, Verizon Enterprise Solutions; Erik Moreno, EVP, Fox Networks; Fay Arjomandi, CEO – Vodafone Xone, President/Chairman – Vodafone Americas Foundation; Geeta Nayyar, Chief Medical Information Officer, AT&T; Glenn Lurie, President, AT&T Wireless; Hank Skorny, VP and GM – Software Services, Intel; Henning Schulzrinne, CTO, FCC; Jef Holove, CEO, Basis; Jude Buckley, President – Mobility, Best Buy Co; Kevin Packingham, Chief Product Officer, Samsung; Manish Jha, GM – Mobile, NFL; Marianne Marck, SVP – Consumer Products, Starbucks; Marios Zenios, VP – Uconnect, Chrysler Group; Matt Carter, President – Emerging Solutions, Sprint; Raj Toleti, CTO, Patient Point; Ralph de la Vega, CEO, AT&T Wireless; Rowland Shaw, VP – Strategy, Ericsson; Stephen David, former CIO, P&G; Steve Elfman, President, Sprint; Terry Myerson, Corporate Vice President – Mobile, Microsoft; Tracy Isacke, Head, Telefonica Digital Americas

We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, twitter feeds, future research reports, articles, and our annual thought-leadership summit – Mobile Future Forward. The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in August 2013. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in July 2013.

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

Mobile Breakfast Series Recap – London – Operator/OTT – The Way Forward July 5, 2012

Posted by chetan in : Mobile Breakfast Series,Mobile Operators,OTT,Wireless Value Chain , add a comment

June has been a very exciting month for us at Chetan Sharma Consulting. We took our Mobile Breakfast Series first outside Seattle to Atlanta and then, last week, outside US to London. Both places, it was very well received and we thank all the partners, speakers, and attendees who helped us out. On Jun 29th, we hosted our first European Mobile Breakfast Series at Wayra, Telefonica in London. My thanks to the Telefonica team for hosting us and making the whole experience worry-free. The topic of the discussion was Operator/OTT – The Way Forward. Regular readers would remember, we did a Seattle Breakfast Event on the same topic earlier in June. Wanted to get the European flavor of the same hot topic.






Operator traditional revenue streams are under threat esp. voice and messaging. Access margins will continue to stay under pressure. OTT players are coming in fast and furious and it is not just the big ones like Google but also players like Whatsapp, Voxer, Viber and others. How do operators play in the new landscape – lessen the decline of their traditional revenues while investing in new areas that improve their overall margins and revenues. Do they play the role of an enabler, a utility player, or become the OTT player themselves? In a software-driven world, how do they stay nimble? On the flip side, what are some things that operators can provide to the OTT players that make them successful, take them to the market quickly and maintain a long-term healthy and mutually-beneficial partnership? Operators still generate 70% of the global mobile industry revenues, so they are an important part of the chain but how do they ensure they have an equally relevant share in the profits. The panel will discuss how operators and OTT players think about the challenges and the opportunities, the competition and the coopetition.

To discuss the topic we had excellent panel with Jamie Finn, Director of Product Design at Telefonica Digital. This is a new unit within Telefonica that is doing some great work (recently released TU Me – a messaging application to compete with other VoIP/IP messaging apps) and Jamie is an integral part of the team.

Jamie was joined by Dominique Rougié, Director, TV Interactive Services & Media, Digital Innovation, Orange Group. Dominique has an interesting perspective since he is responsible for services across the three channels – online, cable, and mobile. From the OTT side, we had Andreas Bernström Chief Executive Officer, Rebtel. Rebtel is the second largest VoIP player after Skype with over $80M in revenue slated for 2012. Finally, we had Frank Meehan who has been doing OTT for a long time first at 3Uk and then at INQMobile. Some of the earliest OTT integrations of Skype, Facebook, and Twitter came from his team.

Some highlights from the discussion –

I really enjoyed the discussion and audience participation. We now take a break from our Mobile Breakfast Series and focus our attention to our annual mobile executive summit – Mobile Future Forward which is going to be held on Sept 10th in Seattle. We have an extraordinary group of executives who are joining us and I hope you can too.

Until then, have a great summer and see you soon.

MBS London – Frank Meehan Interview June 9, 2012

Posted by chetan in : Mobile Breakfast Series,OTT,Wireless Value Chain,Worldwide Wireless Market , 1 comment so far

Mobile Breakfast Series Frank Meehan, Horizons Ventures VC: Why Operators Should Follow Telefónica & AT&T Innovation Blueprint

With MBS Seattle behind us, we are gearing up for Atlanta and London. Our good partner Mobile Groove did a nice interview with one of our speakers and my good friend – Frank Meehan who will be with us in London on the Operators/OTT panel. Frank has done terrific stints at Ericsson, 3 UK, INQMobile and now is with Horizons Venture –

Some highlights:

What must mobile operators do?

Yes, OTT players have had a hearty meal at the expense of the mobile operator, but there is still money to be made if mobile operators concentrate on what they do best.

As Frank puts it: “Going out and trying to build a social network is probably not the right thing to do, but there are some great things that operators are doing.  I particularly like the way Telefónica Digital has set up really a separate company which is designed to go after digital opportunities.  That’s the right way to do it.”

Facing the talent crisis

Operators should stake their turf (connected home, security, the Cloud, etc) and build their business. But, Frank warns, the biggest challenge for operators is talent. “A lot of the young and upcoming talent is going off to work for startups.”

What can operators do to stem the flow of talent to startups (that may one day be their rivals)? A lot! Follow the Telefónica Digital blueprint and give your talent freedom to innovate. “You’ve got to have incentives that compete with startups, or with the Facebooks and Googles otherwise it will become very difficult.”

When it comes to software solutions or the way they are developed, mobile operators should see these are the work of a “separate team outside of the operator standard operations.”

What awaits operators?

As a VC, Frank is convinced there is money to be made. “Operators are cash rich and it’s still a good business and they will snap up things, so certainly there’s an opportunity for investments to crystallize, particularly from a sale — then operators are very interesting.”

Overall, Frank says 2012 has been a great year from “an investment and a start-up perspective.” In his view, it’s “booming” — in part thanks to the Facebook IPO and the excitement it has generated around other companies that tap into our mobile Zeitgeist and requirement for social, sharing and connectedness. “Facebook is literally now the electricity of the Internet … and it’s a huge shift — you’re seeing the big companies like Spotify and others — and it’s just really dragging a huge start-up industry along with it, and it’s accelerating.”

You can listen to the whole interview here.

Mobile Breakfast Series Recap – Operators/OTT – The Way Forward June 8, 2012

Posted by chetan in : AORTA,Applications,Carnival of Mobilists,Connected Devices,Mobile Advertising,Mobile Applications,Mobile Breakfast Series,Mobile Ecosystem,Mobile Future Forward,OTT,Unified Messaging,US Wireless Market,VoIP,Worldwide Wireless Market , 4 comments

June is the Mobile Breakfast Series Month with 3 programs planned in 3 cities across 2 continents. We kicked things off with the first one earlier today in Seattle. The topic of discussion was Operators and OTT – The Way Forward.

We also announced our fall program of Mobile Future Forward. More about that later.



There is an old Chinese saying, “When the wind of change blows, some build walls others build windmills” Our industry is going through tremendous change; it won’t be an exaggeration if I say that the tectonic plates are moving, in some places quite violently. The motion is being forced both by the economic conditions but also by the technology and business progress. I have been around the industry long enough but it still amazes me – the stuff that’s in the pipeline and how quickly consumers absorb it.

The topic of our discussion was Operators and OTT or Over the Top. These are services like Skype, Youtube, Amazon video, HBO, etc. things that go over the network. I wanted to broaden the discussion to another acronym – VAS or value added services – both for the consumer segment and the enterprise segment. These will be simple things like address backup or CRM applications to more sophisticated supply chain management, in-store location targeting, advertising etc. To discuss this we have an absolutely brilliant panel representing various parts of the value chain.

RealNetworks has been the Kevin Bacon of startups in Seattle. Thanks to the people Rob Glaser hired, RN has done a better job at spawning up new ideas that your bigger cousins in town. Rob is well known for his pioneering work in giving Internet its voice (in the words of Kara Swisher in the 1998 article for WSJ). But lately, Rob has been busy with Sidecar – a next generation communication app that does more things than messaging and voice. If you haven’t tried, please do so.

Mary Jesse is one of the most distinguished engineers in WA State going back from the McCaw days, VP of Eng at AT&T, CTO of RadioFrame and now CoFounder and CEO of an enterprise communications company called Ivytalk. Again, if you haven’t tried it out, please do so.

Michael Shim was with Yahoo before Groupon and Yahoo was one of the true pioneers in the mobile space and now at Groupon he is seeing the new opportunities on the VAS, payments, and commerce. It will be great to get his view of how Groupon thinks about the space.

Have you tried T-Mobile’s Bobsled? Well, Alex Samano is the man and energy behind this service and T-Mobile is one of the few operators globally who are taking this OTT opportunity head-on. At TMO, he has been involved some really interesting initiatives like @home and wifi calling.

Last but not the least, Abhi Ingle from AT&T who heads up the mobile enterprise business. The industry has been talking about enterprise mobility for ages but his team generates more revenue than majority of the industry players combined. Did you know that AT&T is one of the biggest app developer on the planet? I bet you didn’t know that.

Operator traditional revenue streams are under threat esp. voice and messaging. Access margins will continue to stay under pressure. OTT players are coming in fast and furious and it is not just the big ones like Google but also players like Whatsapp, Voxer, Viber and others. How do operators play in the new landscape – lessen the decline of their traditional revenues while investing in new areas that improve their overall margins and revenues. Do they play the role of an enabler, a utility player, or become the OTT player themselves? In a software-driven world, how do they stay nimble? On the flip side, what are some things that operators can provide to the OTT players that make them successful, take them to the market quickly and maintain a long-term healthy and mutually-beneficial partnership? Operators still generate 70% of the global mobile industry revenues, so they are an important part of the chain but how do they ensure they have an equally relevant share in the profits. The panel discussed how operators and OTT players think about the challenges and the opportunities, the competition and the coopetition.

Some highlights from the discussion:

Our next breakfast event is in Atlanta on Connected Devices on June 22nd. Then we revisit the Operator/OTT discussion again from the European point of view in London on June 29th. Tell your colleagues and friends about it. They will thank you for that.