Global Wireless Data Market Update 2007

Global Wireless Data Market Update 2007

Global Wireless Data Market Update 2007

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

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

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

  • The worldwide markets continue to grow at an explosive pace reaching 3.3B subscriptions by Q407 up 20% from 2006 levels. Significant growth is coming from India and China with both countries registering close to 8-9M net adds per month. India recorded 8.8M net adds in Jan 08 while China added 9.4M in Feb 08. Overall, the world market is at almost 50% penetration.
  • US surpassed Japan as the most valuable mobile data market in service revenue with US adding $24.5B vs. $23.2B for Japan in 2007 mobile data service revenues. China with $12.5B was ranked number 3. US registered the highest growth amongst the top 3 with over 55% increase from 2006 levels followed by China at 37% and Japan at 18%. These top 3 markets account for over 50% of the global data service revenues.
  • NTT DoCoMo continues to dominate the wireless data service revenues rankings with over $12.13B in service data revenues for 2007 however Q/Q growth has dropped to single digits. DoCoMo crossed 80% in 3G penetration and is expected to touch 90% by end of the year.
  • DoCoMo was followed by China Mobile, KDDI, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, O2 UK, SK Telecom, Softbank, and China Unicom to round up the top 10 operators by wireless data service revenues. All the top 10 carriers exceeded $3B in data revenues for the year.
  • Most of the major operators around the world have double digit percentage contribution to their overall ARPU from data services. Operators like KDDI, DoCoMo, 3 Italy, 3 UK, and O2 UK are topping 30%.
  • Both India and China added a whopping 85 million new subscriptions (most of them prepaid). This week India edges past US to become the number 2 wireless market (by subscriptions) in the world. In last two years alone it added almost 150 million new subscriptions (in comparison China added 155 million and the US market added 44 million).
  • Vodafone Italy reported the highest increase in data ARPU from 4Q06 with 76% growth. Other notable percentage increases in ARPU were from Rogers, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and T-Mobile Austria. The biggest drop in percentage terms were registered by the Indian operators with average data ARPU dropping to $0.70.
  • In terms of absolute dollar amount, 3 UK leads the pack with $29 data ARPU (qualifying limit: 4 million subs). By comparison, the rest of the top 4 operators are below $22. In fact, 3 UK reported the highest ARPU recorded for the year at approximately $94 (in Q2). Other operators who reported overall ARPU above $60 were KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, Rogers, and 3 Sweden.
  • The biggest jump in data revenues was experienced by Verizon Wireless with over 68% increase from 2006 followed by AT&T with 63% jump and O2 UK making 49% gain.
  • In 2007, SMS’s vice like grip on data revenues continued 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%.
  • The top 10 operators increased their revenue by 32% during 2007 (from 2006) to reach almost $62 billion in data service revenues, thus accounting for almost half of the global data service revenues though they account for only 27% of the global subscription base.
  • NTT DoCoMo’s position at the top of the wireless data world has been challenged recently by several carriers esp. by its archrival KDDI. Their data coordinates stand at ($21.5, 35%) and ($21, 34%) respectively (please see PowerPoint for reference). Since the takeover from Vodafone, Softbank has been making significant strides in the market by taking the highest share of the net-adds in last 9 months.
  • The biggest percentage contribution by data ARPU has been consistently registered (since mid 2002) by two Philippines carriers – Smart Communications and Globe Telecom with almost 55% (or $4) contribution coming from data services.
  • Even though China reported approximately $12.5B in data revenues for 2007 and the percentage contribution is over 23%, data ARPU is around $2.3. For India data ARPU dropped below $1 for all major carriers.
  • China Mobile with 369M (as of Dec 07, the numbers increased to 384M by Feb 08) remains the #1 carrier in terms of total number of subscribers followed by Vodafone at 252M and China Unicom with 160M subscriptions. Telefonica, América Móvil, SingTel, Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile), and Orange (France Telecom) are the next five largest telecom groups in the world. In terms of individual carriers in a given country, AT&T and Verizon Wireless occupy the #3 and #4 spot respectively ahead of NTT DoCoMo, which is at #5. The two Chinese carriers round up the top two positions and are likely to stay perched at their lookout vistas for many years to come. China Mobile also surpassed Vodafone in market cap which stands at $288B (vs. $164B for Vodafone). Telecom groups in mature markets are under enormous pressure to either come up with a global expansion strategy or accelerate their existing plans. Carriers in Japan and Korea are the most under duress.
  • As far as 3G is concerned, GSA reported 293 WCDMA commercial launches worldwide with over 270M 3G users (66% of them are WCDMA users vs. EV-DO). Both Japan and Korea continue to expand their 3G base with both reporting over 75-80% penetration. 3G has picked-up steam in both western Europe and North America per our forecast in the 2005 cover story article “3G: Hitting the Mass Market” published in the Wireless World Magazine. Western Europe and US are approximately at 25% 3G penetration (Italy being the exception reaching 40%).
  • China and India represent the biggest opportunities for Infrastructure providers. China has postponed its 3G decision for the umpteenth time and has been having technical and political problems to get something in place before the 2008 Olympics. India is going through its 3G spectrum policy but unlike China is likely to resolve the issues in short order. Some of the biggest infrastructure contracts will come from these two countries that are looking to expand coverage into rural areas. In India, regulators are considering inviting bids for the 3G spectrum from foreign entities as well.
  • Carriers with nationwide 3G networks and good distribution of handsets are seeing uptick in data ARPU. The Japanese and Korean carriers along with operator 3, Verizon, Sprint Nextel are all seeing benefits of rolling out their 3G service. Deployment of 3.5G technologies such as HSDPA and EV-DO Rev A (and B) are also gaining momentum. Networks are getting deployed and market is being seeded with some of the early handsets. In terms of 4G, there is a strong momentum behind LTE, UMB in its current incarnation is practically dead, and proponents of WiMAX are pushing the technology as a 4G candidate, though it is starting to lose its time advantage.
  • In terms of applications, messaging accounts for lion-share of data 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 captured industry’s imagination. 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.
  • 2007 also saw the demise of some high-profile MVNOs like Amp’D. Helio continues to struggle while the newer ones like Sonopia and Blyk are testing the treacherous waters with different business models. Asian market is also opening up for MVNOs.
  • Nokia eclipsed 100M/quarter unit sale three times in 2007. It sold over 437M handsets in 2007, more than the next three handset manufacturers combined. Nokia’s global market share stood at 40.2%.
  • While the talk of “Open Access” and “Open Platform” consumed much of North America, it barely registered a decibel elsewhere. Several significant events including 700 MHz Auction, Android, and Verizon’s “Open Network” initiative elevated the consternation in the ecosystem.
  • Several operators reported Mobile Advertising as their key strategic focus for the coming quarters, esp. China Mobile and Vodafone. Sensing the opportunity to seek new sources of revenue stream, Nokia launched its ad service as well. 2007 saw tremendous M&A activity in both the online and mobile advertising space. In a matter of weeks, several billion dollar transactions took place highlighting the intensity in preparing for the next battleground. The estimated market for mobile advertising in 2007 was approximately $2.3B with messaging, search, and browsing accounting for over 84% of the revenues.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

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