US Wireless Market Update Q2 2011

US Wireless Market Update Q2 2011

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US Mobile Data Market Update Q1 2011


If Confucius was alive, he would have said, “We live in interesting times.” 2011 is proving to be the blockbuster deal year. After Microsoft/Nokia, AT&T/T-Mobile, Microsoft/Skype, Google made the $4*π billion play for Motorola and raised the stakes in the mobile ecosystem warfare. The ecosystem has entered into a phase that Sun Tzu and Chanakya would have loved to operate in.

In other news, the US wireless data market grew 5% Q/Q and 22% Y/Y to reach $16.2B in mobile data service revenues in Q2 2011 and is on course to increase Y/Y by 22% to $67B in 2011.

US unseated Philippines as the king of TXT messaging with almost 664 messages/sub/month. Philippines is seeing a sharp decline in per user messaging thanks to Facebook and app messaging.

Apple overtook Nokia as the dominant smartphone OEM though Samsung is right behind and is likely to overtake Apple later this year. However, Apple will continue to dominate profit share for the foreseeable future.

Smartphones continued to be sold at a brisk pace accounting for 55% of the devices sold in Q2 2011. Operators are averaging 70% of their postpaid sales as smartphones with Android dominating though iPhone leads in mindshare. The featurephone as a device species is on the verge of extinction. By Christmas, 90% of the US postpaid device sales could be smartphones.

Platform Moves

I am a Platform, therefore I am. Everything and everyone wants to be a platform that developers can build upon. The big 4 – Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon are having good success with frequent upgrades and rollouts. Consumers gravitate towards ecOSystems and the richness of the product offerings not specific OSes. OS is just a means to an end. However, the more developers you get excited about the platform, the more the ecosystem thrives and it becomes a virtuous circle. Companies left without the dancing partners need to ensure that they are not the one left standing when the music stops.

While a lot of attention has been focused on Apple and Google skirmishes, Amazon has been quietly tinkering with some interesting products – advertising enabled Kindle, the upcoming tablets and handsets, Android based appstores, mobile payments, distribution giant, cloud, and so on and so forth. Facebook with its nearly 800M friends can unleash several “billion dollar” features that can shake up different mobile microcosms.

In the meantime, Microsoft is trying to find a way to get back into the mobile market. Microsoft’s Xbox franchise gives it something unique and compelling. Their success might depend on how well they are able to integrate and tell a compelling story to the consumers. The upcoming Christmas quarter will be a critical test. RIM and HP don’t have much of an ecosystem to matter in the larger scheme of things. They can be successful in their own ways but attaining a leadership position remains significantly challenging.

AT&T/T-Mobile merger

AT&T’s proposed merger of T-Mobile continued to keep the regulators busy for the quarter. Earlier this year, we published a first of its kind in-depth study on competition in mobile markets –“Competition and the Evolution of Mobile Markets – A Study of Competition in Global Mobile Markets”. The paper presents analysis and an in-depth analytical framework to study the competitive landscape in the global mobile markets. Our research shows that an effective equilibrium point for the top three market share in a given country to be around 46%:29%:18% respectively. We expect that once all is said and done, we will end up in the vicinity of this equation.

Patent Warfare

On the eve of Android launch, I mentioned to one of the journalist to watch for some IP fireworks in about 3 years. For those of us who have been deeply involved in the mobile IP space, the IP events of 2011 have been largely predictable though the valuations have gone through the roof.

Over the last 15 years, I have seen patents and IP in the mobile space from all angles from authoring patents to testifying in ITC cases and pretty much everything in between. In the last six months, patents have become an essential tool for competitive strategy in the mobile device space. See our analysis on the major players with the number of granted patents in Europe and US (slide 13).

To paraphrase the oracle of Omaha, “Only when the litigation tide comes in do you discover who’s been swimming without protection.”

Mobile is changing the way we spend

It is very clear that mobile will be at the center of human evolution for years to come. Mobile collapses time and distance and as such impacts every facet of our lives. While we have come to know the mobile phone as a communications device, their role in our daily lives has been expanding. From checking emails, paying for tickets, sending money transfers, taking pictures of your kids, watching soccer World Cup live, checking commodity pricing, to emergency response to mHealth (mobile Health), mobile devices have become an essential tool to help us navigate our day.

Mobile also plays a key role in how we go about the most basic transaction in a given day that keeps the economy humming – spend. We discussed this and more in the paper “How Mobile Will Change The Way We Spend”  that was released earlier this month.

What to expect in the coming months?

All this has setup an absolutely fascinating rest of the year in the communication/computing industry. Convergence is everywhere and is leading to a fundamental reset of the value chains and ecosystems. We are likely to see a few more blockbuster marriage proposals before the year is out.

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 12th mobile thought leadership summit – Mobile Future Forward which is bringing exceptional industry thought-leaders, inventors, and doers to brainstorm, discuss, and debate what’s next.

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 Q2 2011 US wireless data market is:

Service Revenues

  • The US Wireless data service revenues grew 5% Q/Q and 22% Y/Y to $16.2B in Q2 2011. The mobile data services revenues for the US market are on track to reach $67B in 2011.
  • Verizon and AT&T had a good mobile data quarter accounting for 77% of the increase in data revenues in Q2 2011.
  • For the quarter, AT&T and Verizon accounted for 69% of the market data services revenues and 62% of the subscription base.
  • Verizon maintained its #1 ranking just edging past NTT DoCoMo who came in at number two with $5.77B in data revenues for the quarter. AT&T maintained its #3 position with $5.4B in data revenues. Sprint and T-Mobile maintained their #6 and #8 rank in the top 10 mobile data operators list for Q2 2011. The proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile will make AT&T #1 by a distance and place 20% of the global mobile data revenues in the hands of the top two US operators. AT&T and Verizon will become the #1 and #2 players respectively.


  • The Overall ARPU increased by $0.41. Average voice ARPU declined by $0.48 while the average data ARPU grew by $0.89 or 5% Q/Q.
  • The average industry percentage contribution of data to overall ARPU was 36.3% in Q2 2011 and is likely to touch 40% by year’s end. Verizon is likely to be the first to eclipse the 40% mark with AT&T a close second. (NTT DoCoMo became the second major operator to go past the 50% mark this quarter (if we don’t include Philippines) and Japan as a market follows Philippines in going past the 50% mark).
  • Verizon and Sprint were neck-and-neck in data ARPU followed by AT&T. In terms of % contribution, all the top three operators exceeded the 35% mark. T-Mobile ended the quarter with almost 30% of its revenue coming from the data services.
  • We expect data revenues to exceed voice revenues in the US market in early 2013.


  • Helped by the growth in connected devices, the overall net-adds increased by 4.4M with Verizon accounting for almost 50% of the growth.
  • For the seventh straight quarter, AT&T reported more net-adds from connected devices than postpaid subs. AT&T now accounts for 43% of connected devices in the US (w/ cellular subscription of some sort).
  • Overall, AT&T has 43% of the connected device share of the market. The connected device segment growth slowed down to 3% Q/Q but is still up 37% Y/Y.
  • Sprint continued on its comeback trail by adding more than a million subscriptions for the third straight quarter, first time it has done it since Q2 2005.
  • T-Mobile however continues to be sandwiched between the top three and the next three and hasn’t been able to add postpaid subs for five straight quarters. The net-adds declined for third straight quarter.

Applications and Services

  • US unseated Philippines as the king of TXT messaging with almost 664 messages/sub/month compared to Philippines which is seeing a sharp decline in per user messaging due to IP messaging. Some of the European operators are also experiencing the pain of declining SMS usage.

  • While the percentage share of the data revenues is declining for messaging, the revenue growth stays strong with almost $5B in revenues.

  • The market is finally starting to see activity in the mobile commerce and payment services as well as in various industry verticals like healthcare, retail, and education.
  • Q2 2011 also saw tremendous activity in the mobile commerce and payments space with lot of announcements from the operators, Internet players, and startups as well as the retailers and the ecommerce players. All are vying for a piece of the mobile wallet. Much more to come in the next 12 months.


  • Smartphones continued to be sold at a brisk pace accounting for 55% of the devices sold in Q2 2011. Operators are averaging 70% of their postpaid sales as smartphones with Android dominating though iPhone leads in mindshare.
  • For a first time in recent memory, Nokia sold less than 100M devices in a quarter and its marketshare shrank to 22% from a once dominant position of almost 40%.
  • Apple unseated Nokia as the king of the smartphone hill but Samsung is right behind and is likely to overtake Apple later this year.
  • 35% of all smartphones being sold globally are being sold in the US.
  • Last quarter, smartphones sales exceeded the 50% mark. The % share jumped to 55% in Q2 2011. Smartphones now account for 80% revenue of all phones sold in the US.
  • In the vertical vs. horizontal platform battle, the ecosystem is shifting towards horizontal domination in the near-term (units sold) while a majority of the profits reside in the vertical column.
  • 85% of the tablets use WiFi only (some have inactivated cellular chipset) meaning the operator channel is not a necessary distribution channel. Operators who start to bundle multiple devices by single data plans and data buckets are going to see a better yield in this category.
  • While the definition of 4G stays muddled, Sprint added 1.7M WiMax subs and Verizon incremented their LTE count by 1.2M.

Mobile Data Growth

  • The mobile data consumption continues unabated. We expect per MB usage in the US to reach 675 MB by the end of 2011 just behind Sweden which is likely to end up at 760 MB.

  • While the spectrum debate rages on, in addition to the network and backhaul upgrades, policy management and data offload have emerged as top two solutions that operators deploying around the world. Signaling management solutions like Diameter routing are also getting good traction. However, a long-term video solution is still elusive. As we have been saying in our Yottabyte series of research papers, a comprehensive solution strategy is needed to effectively manage margins/bit.

  • We will have the 3rd edition of our “Managing Growth and Profits in the Yottabyte Era”research out later this year. We will also be discussing this subject in great detail at our Mobile Future Forward summit with some of the most influential voices in the space.

Global Update

  • Race to a billion – India went past 850M in Q2 2011 subs and China went past 900M. By mid 2012 both India and China will have more than a billion subscriptions.

  • China Mobile crossed the 600M subscription mark however its 3G introduction has had a tepid response thus and its 4G strategy remains in flux.

  • For more details, please see our Global Mobile Wireless Market Update released in July 2011.

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, AT&T; Biju Nair, Chief Strategy Officer, Synchronoss Technologies; Bob Borchers, Partner, Opus Capital; Bobby Morrison, President – PNW, Verizon Wireless; Braxton Woodham, Head of Product Development, AVOS; Danny Bowman, President, Sprint; David Messenger, EVP, Head of Online/Mobile, American Express; Gibu Thomas, SVP – Mobile Walmart; Erik Moremo, SVP, FOX; Glenn Lurie, President, Emerging Devices, Resale & Partnerships, AT&T Mobility; Hank Skorny, CSO, Real Networks; Jana Messerschmidt, Sr. Director, Twitter; Jay Emmet, GM, OpenMarket; Jason MacKenzie, President, Global Sales and Marketing, HTC; Jerry Batt, CIO, PulteGroup; Ken Denman, CEO, Openwave; Ken Wirth, President, Alcatel-Lucent Wireless; Kris Rinne, SVP – Networks/Architecture, AT&T; Mark Rolston, Chief Creative Officer, Frog Design; Manoj Leelanivas, EVP & GM, Juniper Networks; Michael Wolf, VP, GigaOM; Mikael Back, VP – Products, Ericsson; Naoki Aoyagi, CEO, GREE USA; Paul Palmieri, CEO, Millennial Media; Rob Glaser, Partner, Accel; Sanjiv Ahuja, CEO, LightSquared; Stephen Bye, CTO, Sprint; Steve Mollenkopf, EVP/Group President, Qualcomm; Suja Chandrasekaran, CIO, Timberland; Will Hsu, CPO, AT&T Interactive.

More information at

Your feedback is always welcome.


Chetan Sharma

We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, twitter feeds, future research reports, and articles. The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in Nov 2011. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in Apr 2012.

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