Mobile Data Surpasses Voice Traffic For First Time

Total mobile data traffic topped mobile voice traffic in the United States last year, for the first time.

In fact, globally, data traffic (that includes SMS text messaging) topped voice traffic on a monthly basis last year and the total traffic across the world exceeded an exabyte for the first time in 2009, according to a report just released by Chetan Sharma Consulting, a leading strategist in the mobile industry (clients include AT&T and China Mobile).

Credit:  Chetan Sharma Consulting

What's an exabyte? One quintillion bytes, or one billion gigabytes. Yes, billion with a "b." And Sharma says North America and Western Europe's mobile data markets are growing so rapidly they each should exceed an exabyte in 2010.

Overall telecom revenues stayed flat, according to the report, mainly due to the worldwide recession. But they did not decline - unlike most other industries.

Interestingly, the nations with the largest data usage overall and the nations with the largest data service revenues were almost identical, just arranged in a different order. The top 10 by overall revenues were: U.S., China, Japan, France, Italy, UK, Germany, Brazil, Spain and India. By data revenues alone, they were: U.S. Japan, China, U.K., Italy, Germany, France, Australia, Spain and Korea. Though India fell off the list when it came to data revenues, it's one of the two top countries - the other being China - growing fastest in new mobile subscribers. The top 10 nations in terms of the number of mobile subscriptions looks still different yet: China, India, U.S., Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Germany, Pakistan and Italy.

Credit:  Chetan Sharma Consulting

The only mobile companies worldwide that are bringing in $50 million or more in revenues are China Mobile, Vodafone, AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless. But many more companies have 100 million-plus subscribers. In fact, the top nine companies in terms of subscribers looks a bit different than the revenue list: China Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica, America Movil, Telenor, T-Mobile, China Unicom, TeliaSonera and Orange.

Sharma said he expected 2010 to be the first year that mobile broadband connections would exceed fixed broadband connections globally.

Credit:  Chetan Sharma Consulting

And internationally, the total number of app downloads hit $7 billion; bringing in $4.1 billion in revenues. Asia had the largest percentage of downloads, but North Americans accounted for more than 50 percent of the app revenue.

While text messaging still accounts for the majority of data traffic, its supremacy is being chipped away at by music, television and video streaming, voice navigation, games, web surfing and other things. And Apple, RIM and Google are duking it out internationally when it comes to market share of phones, though Nokia still has the largest percentage - which is shrinking.

When it comes to providers, the market is contracting, too. There were many aquisitions and mergers between telecom companies last year and that trend is expected to accelerate, Sharma said.

He also warned that though everyone's talking about 4G networks, it is still unclear exactly what that means and when implementation may begin. So don't hold your breath just yet.

Tags:  Mobile, Data, Apps