Mobile operator data revenues to pass voice by 2018

By Chris Lee

The great and the good of the mobile phone industry met at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February. In attendance were 1,400 companies and 60,000 attendees from more than 200 countries, including the Chinese new kid on the global block, Huawei.

MWC’s organiser, GSMA, predicts that the rise of connected devices will drive mobile operator revenues past voice revenues globally by 2018. In 2012, Japan became the first country where data revenues exceeded voice revenues, due largely to the availability of advanced mobile broadband networks and a higher adoption of the latest smartphones, tablets and connected devices. This year, GSMA believes Argentina’s data revenues will exceed voice revenues, attaining this milestone ahead of the US and UK, which will reach this point in 2014.

According to telecoms journalist Gordon Kelly, whether they like it or not, networks are now in the position Internet Service Providers (ISPs) found themselves in ten years ago where people did not need their portals and value adds, just their data, which – he argues – made them a commodity.

Calls and texts are going so same way as we move to a data world where these services are replaced by VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), social media and instant messaging,” he told < i>NMK. “Networks are understandably fighting this, but their future as mobile ISPs – especially with the roll out of 4G – looks inevitable.”

Connectivity driving mobile data explosion

GSMA also predicted that the expansion of mobile data would provide better access to healthcare and education, as well as lift people out of hunger and fuel economic growth. The mobile data explosion is being driven by a surge in demand for connected devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and is transforming the socioeconomic future of people in developed and developing countries, according to the GSMA. Its joint “Connected Living” report with PwC argues how connected products could change people’s lives over the next five years.

In developed countries, GSMA argues:

  • mHealth (mobile health) could save $400 billion in healthcare costs in OECD countries
  • Connected cars could save one in nine lives < /b>through emergency calling services mEducation (mobile education) can reduce student drop-outs by eight per cent or 1.8 million children
  • Smart metering could cut carbon emissions by 27 million tonnes – the equivalent of planting 1.2 billion trees

While in developing countries, GSMA believes:

  • mHealth to help save one million lives in sub-Saharan Africa
  • mAutomotive will improve food transport and storage, which could help feed more than 40 million people annually – equivalent to entire the population of Kenya
  • mEducation can enable 180 million students to further their education
  • Intelligent transport systems could reduce commute times by 35 per cent, giving commuters back a whole week each year < /li>

“Mobile data is not just a commodity, but is becoming the lifeblood of our daily lives, society and economy, with more and more connected people and things,” said Michael O’Hara, Chief Marketing Officer, GSMA. “This is an immense responsibility and the mobile industry needs to continue collaborating with governments and key industry sectors to deliver products and services that help people around the world improve their businesses and societies.”

MWC 2013 in perspective

MWC 2013 was an incredibly important opportunity for brands to showcase their products, apps and future technology, so what did Gordon Kelly make of MWC? Who were the winners and losers?

MWC 2013 has been about the upstarts, the likes of Huawei and ZTE who are keen to break into the established order and who revel in the spotlight the show brings,” he commented. “By contrast it has been relatively quiet from the major players who are all looking to their own events now for their biggest announcements. Notably Sony, BlackBerry and LG already broke their biggest news ahead of the show and Samsung has announced its Galaxy S4 will be unveiled instead in mid-March. I think this trend will continue and MWC may become more about getting hands-on time with the latest hardware rather than seeing it for the first time.”

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