Managing Growth and Profits in the Yottabyte Era – 2nd Edition

The year 2010 will be remembered for many milestones. One of them clearly will be the significant migration from voice to data services and revenues. In Q1 2010, the number three operator in Japan – Softbank Mobile reported 55% of its service revenues coming from data thus becoming the first major operator[1] to have more revenues from data services than from voice. Over the course of the rest of the year, other operators like NTT DoCoMo will take this data leap as well.

US, the nation with the most mobile data service revenues went past $14 Billion in quarterly mobile data revenues and is expected to go past the $50 Billion mark for the year in 2010.[2] The subscription penetration in the US is well over 94%[3] and the mobile data usage is on the rise.

While the rate of new subscription addition has slowed down, the pace of innovation is going very strong. Just like Japan, other major economies will slowly transition from a voice-centric universe to the one where voice is just another application on the all-IP network. Operators will make significant transition from voice to data, from making calls to getting lost in applications and from voice communications to multimedia communications. Helped by the ever expanding wireless broadband networks, and release of hit devices every week, and the consumer’s insatiable appetite for information and content has brought us to the surge of a data tsunami that will shake the industry to its core.

With everything moving to digital, information repositories across the web are almost doubling every day moving rapidly to the yottabyte (YB) era.[4] The information, the desire and the capability to consume oodles of data is increasing exponentially. As a result the traffic – both wireline and wireless is also increasing at a predictably fast rate.

In 2009, the global yearly mobile data traffic reached a new milestone – 1 Exabyte (EB) or 1 Million Terabytes (TB). In the US, the data traffic is growing so fast that we are likely to exceed the 1 EB barrier in 2010. By 2016-17, the global yearly mobile data traffic is likely to exceed 1 Zettabyte (ZB) or 1000 Exabytes. How does the industry go about managing such growth in a profitable manner when the cost of supporting such traffic will increase exponentially? Will the move to LTE offer some respite? [5]

This paper is the second edition of the “Managing Profits and Growth in the Yottabyte Era”[6] research paper. It discusses the research and analysis done by Chetan Sharma Consulting on the growth of mobile data traffic in over 45 countries (with a detailed look at the US market) and how the ecosystem can apply some strategies to manage growth and profits.

We have built detailed models to estimate the rise of mobile data network traffic and to understand as to how the margin per bit can be maintained. Over the course of the last year, we have worked with several global players in the ecosystem to deploy effective strategies and solutions. This paper also draws from this experience on the ground.