US Wireless Data Market Update - Q1 2008


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The US wireless data market grew 38% in Q108 compared to Q107 to reach $7.5B in data revenues. iPhone is not only having an impact on data revenues but also on device design, mobile advertising roadmaps, and applications and services that are being contemplated for future. US exceeded Japan in mobile data service revenues for the quarter and the market is expected to reach $34B in data revenues in 2008.


  • The US Wireless data service revenues grew 7.5% Q/Q to $7.5B in Q108. Compared to Q107, the data service revenues grew 38%.
  • Overall ARPU declined by $1.12 and for the first time since Q405, the average ARPU dropped more than a dollar Q/Q. Average voice ARPU declined by almost $1.50 while average data ARPU inched up by $0.49 or 5%.
  • Verizon lead in data ARPU with $11.94 (or 23.37% of the revenues) closely followed by Sprint at $11.50 (or 20.54%), AT&T at $10.80 (or 21.52%) and T-Mobile at $8.50 (or 17%).
  • The strongest growth in Q108 came from AT&T with 15% and 53% increase in data revenues from Q407 and Q107 respectively. Both AT&T and Verizon generated $2.3B in data revenues and are on target to exceed $10B in data revenues for the year for the first time by any operator worldwide besides NTT DoCoMo. AT&T and Verizon now account for 61% of the market data services revenues. Verizon and T-Mobile registered 10% increase in data revenues from Q407 while Sprint’s declined by 6%.
  • The average industry % contribution of data to service revenues exceeded 20% and now stands at 20.62%.
  • The number of data subscribers has been on the rise with Verizon leading the way. At the end of Q108, Verizon had that 48.1M (or 72%) data subscribers. Verizon and AT&T subscribers joined to send over 100 Billion text messages in Q108 translating into almost a message every 3 hours. This compared to users in Philippines where average routinely surpasses a message every hour.
  • In terms of net-adds, T-Mobile was helped by SunCom acquisition and crossed the 30M subscription mark. Verizon regained its quarterly net-adds title from AT&T by edging its rival 1.5M to 1.2M. Sprint lost customers again, this time exceeding 1M. In March, the US market also slipped behind India to third position in terms of total number of subscriptions (India is predominantly a prepaid market while US is a postpaid market).
  • The top three US carriers again maintained their respective rankings amongst the top 10 global carriers in terms of data revenues. For the quarter, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint Nextel stood at #4, 5, and 6 respectively. AT&T and Verizon are in the select group of five global operators who are now generating $2B or more in data revenues/quarter (the other three are NTT DoCoMo, China Mobile, and KDDI).
  • Non-messaging data revenues continue to be in the 50-60% (of the data revenues) range for the US carriers.
  • The eagerly anticipated 700 MHz played out as we expected with Google doing enough to make Verizon pay more and kick-in the “open-gardens” provisions. However, the actual impact on the market dynamics is likely to be negligible. It did however, help open the “open” debate in the industry.
  • There continues to be tremendous activity in the area of Mobile Advertising. While fending off the Microsoft acquisition, Yahoo is busy creating some compelling applications and is stitching together carrier deals around the world.
  • Venture money continued to flow into the mobile sector with over $1.5B investment in Q108 (Source: Rutberg). Location Services, Mobile Personalization, Mobile Video, Mobile Search and Advertising, Semiconductor, Carrier infrastructure, Device design and development are hot areas.
  • Nokia eclipsed 100M unit sale in Q108 for the fourth straight quarter. It sold over 115M handsets in Q108, more than the next three handset manufacturers combined. Nokia’s global market share stood at 39%. For the year, the industry looks to again eclipse the 1 billion handset mark for 2008
  • 3G penetration in the US was approaching 30% in Q108, with Verizon leading the pack with over 56% 3G subscriber penetration. T-Mobile finally did its 3G launch in limited cities with plans for expansion in 08. 3G subs have over $20 in data ARPU accounting for 30% contribution to the overall ARPU from such subs. These trends are expected and the diffusion of mobile broadband will continue to create new opportunities and revenues for the ecosystem.
  • Apple is slated to announce a 3G iPhone next month, has been aggressively expanding the distribution partners, and is expected to blow past the 10M unit (it is already past 5M) sale mark easily by the year-end especially as operators consider giving rebates to attract potential users and their mobile data usage.
  • As expected, Clearwire and Sprint banded together to raise $14.5B from friends and family which included the likes of Google, Comcast, Time Warner and others. IF the companies can execute on their strategy in 2008/9 and get the devices out in the market without messing up with pricing, this venture can be quite disruptive to the market much more than any other open initiative.

Global update


  • China and India added approximately 55M subscriptions combined in Q108 with India marginally edging out China with a whopping 10.16M net-adds in March (probably for the first time history, monthly net-adds for country have exceeded 10M). By comparison, US added 4.5M in Q1
  • NTT DoCoMo continues to dominate the wireless data revenues rankings with over $3.4B in data services revenue in Q108. 35.7% of its revenue now comes from data services. DoCoMo also crossed 80% in 3G penetration in Q108 and is expected to cross 90% by early 2009.
  • Most of the major carriers around the world have double digit percentage contribution to their overall ARPU from data services. Operators like KDDI, DoCoMo, and O2 UK are consistently topping 30%.

          More details in our worldwide wireless data market update in our Global Wireless Data Market   Update Mar 2008.

Your feedback is always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

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


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© Chetan Sharma Consulting 2008. All Rights Reserved.
Chetan Sharma Consulting is a consulting and advisory firm helping companies in the mobile and voice communications sector. Our expertise is in developing innovation-driven product, business, and IP strategy. We've helped companies like NTT DoCoMo, China Mobile, Samsung, KDDI, Alcatel-Lucent, Sony, Virgin Mobile, KTF, Sprint Nextel, Reuters, Disney, Qualcomm, Infospace, Reliance, BEA, HP, Merrill Lynch, Cincinnati Bell, Bain, SAP, Vulcan, American Express, and many others. What can we do for you?


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