Mobile Broadband Subs Near Quarter-Billion Mark

There were more than 225 million mobile broadband subscribers (all technologies) at the end of March 2009, representing 93 percent year-on-year growth, according to the latest report from Informa Telecoms & Media, assessing non-voice mobile revenues and usage.

Informa estimated the increased usage in non-voice services has resulted in mobile operators recording total data revenues of $46.5 billion during first quarter, which is an 8.5 percent year-over-year increase on the corresponding period in 2008. The value of the non-voice market for the whole of 2008 was more than $180 billion, accounting for more than 20 percent of total service revenues.

While the popularity of mobile broadband remains at its highest in Asia Pacific (over 90 million subscribers), growth is most notable in Latin America (385 percent year-on-year growth to more than 10 million subscribers). Typically in many emerging markets, fixed broadband access remains limited and mobile operators are seeing the opportunity to use recently deployed third-generation networks as a way of diversifying their revenue streams by connecting millions for whom an Internet connection has until recently been out of reach, the research firm noted.

The evolution of the device market also has contributed to a surge in mobile data traffic. The spread of the iPhone continues to boost data usage for those operators that distribute the model with O2 reporting that 40 percent of its data traffic in United Kingdom comes from the smartphone market. Once the preserve of the corporate segment, the consumer market is now driving the evolution of the mobile data market. And yet, the value of the global data market has decreased by 1.8 percent in the last quarter.

Nick Jotischky, Informa Telecoms & Media principal analyst for growth markets, explained the main cause of this fall in the value of the data market is “global currency exchange volatility.”

But, Jotischky added, “mobile operators cannot afford to overlook the effects of the economic downturn on consumer spending and especially the discretionary spend of data services. Moreover, intense competition and the introduction of bundled offers in order to limit churn has resulted in decreasing SMS revenues for many operators despite an actual rise in traffic. While all data services, be they messaging, entertainment, Internet or mobile banking services are becoming more central to mobile operator strategies, they are often more successful as retention tools and differentiators than actual revenue generators.”

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