SMS no longer dominates mobile data revenue stream

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Remember when mobile data revenues primarily came from messaging?  Those days are long gone. According to a new Chetan Sharma Consulting forecast, global mobile data revenue exceeded $300 billion in 2011 and non-messaging services now account for 53 percent of that number.

Worldwide mobile operator revenues are expected to reach $1.5 trillion in 2012, with the number of carriers generating more than $1 billion each in annual data revenues expected to reach 50 by year's end, according to the report.

sharma slideshow

Click here to view a slideshow from this report.

While the U.S. market represents only 6 percent of all subscriptions worldwide, American operators yield 21 percent of global service revenues, 26 percent of data revenues and 27 percent of global capex. By contrast, China and India represent 27 percent of subscriptions but only 12 percent of global service revenues. The top 10 operators worldwide control 42 percent of global data mobile revenues.

Mobile data traffic continues to double year-over-year in most markets, and it will account for 95 percent of global mobile traffic by 2015. "To be able to stay ahead of the demand, significant planning needs to go in to deal with the bits and bytes that are already exploding," Sharma said. "New technical and business solutions will be needed to manage the growth and profit from the services. Relying on only one solution won't be an effective strategy to manage rising data demand. A holistic approach to managing data traffic is needed and our analysis shows that the cost structure can be reduced by more than half if a suite of solutions are deployed vs. a single dimensional approach."

Sharma adds that over-the-top mobile data services now generate 4 percent of worldwide mobile revenues. Operators are responding with their own VoIP apps like T-Mobile USA's Bobsled as well as IP messaging platforms like AT&T's (NYSE:T) Huddle.

Looking ahead at the second half of 2012, Sharma expects more tiered data plans and family options. In addition, the firm expects both native mobile applications and HTML5-based web apps to experience growth, noting "global mobile apps revenue has completely (and irreversibly) tilted to off-deck."

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