I recently penned a column for Light Reading on the arrival of 4G and what it will mean for the large global service providers. I think this is a watershed moment for the telecommunications industry and not many folks seem to be paying attention to it.
The business models of the major service providers are about to change radically — as they go from a heavily regulated, profitable, “utility” model of landline-phone service to the Wild West of the mobile Web. in the pre-4G world, the bulk of their revenue came from predictable and profitable voice services. In the post 4G-world, they will have to provide larger amounts of commoditized data at a lower price point. The bottom line is that 4G is expensive and their margins on mobile data are much lower than voice.
Not only that, but data traffic will predominate the traffic and revenue on 4G networks. When 4G networks get rolled out in 2011-2012, the delivery of mobile data will increase by an order of magnitude. This will present challenges to them on the cost front.
Here are a few facts you might want to follow:
- The global mobile data revenues reached $220 billion and mobile data now contributes 26 percent of the overall global mobile service revenues, according to Chetan Sharma Consulting.
- 2009 also marked the year when the global data traffic (monthly) exceeded the global voice traffic. In the US, the yearly mobile data traffic exceeded the voice traffic for the first time.
- It is expected that 2009 marked the year that mobile data traffic reached a new milestone of 1 exabyte (EB) or 1 million terabytes (TB). By 2016-17, the global yearly mobile data traffic is likely to exceed 1 zettabyte (ZB) or 1,000 exabytes, according to Chetan Sharma Consulting.
- Over 50 percent of the world’s households carry a mobile device, according to Accel Partners.