The big picture
The global mobile industry is the most vibrant and fastest growing industry. We expect the total revenue in the industry to touch approximately $1.3 Trillion in 2011 with mobile data representing 24% of the mix. Global Mobile Data revenues are expected to eclipse $300 Billion for the first time in 2011. It is also the first year in which non-messaging data revenues will make up the majority of the overall global data revenues at 53%.
We expect the total number of subscriptions to exceed 6 billion by the end of 2011. The first 1 billion took over 20 years and this last one is going to take only 15 months. The primary growth drivers are India and China which are cumulatively adding 75M new subs every quarter. Indian and China are also entangled in the race to the billion. At the end of Q2 2011, China was ahead by 50M but India is adding subscriptions at faster rate and is likely to eclipse China before Q2 2012. By then, both nations are expected to exceed 1 Billion in total subscriptions making up 31% of the global subscriptions.
In Q1 2011, US became the first major market to exceed the 50% mark in smartphone sales. The global figure stands at approximately 26%. Some operators expect 90% of their devices sales to be smartphones by the end of the year. In terms of the actual smartphone penetration, we expect the US market to eclipse the 50% mark in 2012.
China leads in the number of subs but US dominates in both total and data revenue. A number of emerging nations are now in top 10 – Brazil, India, Russia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Mexico while once dominant – Korea, UK, Italy, Germany have dropped off or slipped in rankings.
The number of mobile operators with more than $1B in data revenues will increase to 47 in 2011. This number was only at 13 in 2005.
Japan continues to be the leader in mobile data with NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, and Softbank Japan ahead of the pack in terms of mobile data revenue and data as a % of total ARPU. In 2011, it became the first major market to have more than 50% of its mobile revenue from data services. Next, Australia and the US have made good inroads in the last two years. In fact, if we look at the overall data revenue, US is much further ahead than any nation due to the size of the market.
While India has the highest subscriber growth rate in the world right now, the revenue generating opportunity remain down right anemic compared to other major markets with average dropping down to $3.50 in overall ARPU. Even with significant subscriber base, there is going to be a general lack of opportunity in the market for the next couple of years relative to other markets.
Mobile Trends for 2011
1.Total Global Subscriptions to hit 6 Billion
–India and China racing to a billion a piece
2.Total Global Mobile Revenues to hit $1.3 Trillion, almost 2% of Global GDP
–Top 10 operators control 43% of the global mobile revenues
3.Total Global Mobile Data Revenues to eclipse $300 Billion
–Non-messaging data now owns 53% of the global mobile data revenues
4.Mobile Devices are now exceeding traditional computers in unit sales + revenue
–Majority of the device sales in the US are now smartphones. Device Replacement is shrinking
5.Mobile Broadband (4G) is being deployed at a faster rate than previous generations
–Over 1 Billion broadband connections by 2011
6.Global Mobile Apps revenue has shifted to off-deck
–The decline is directly proportional to the increase in smartphone penetration by region
7.All major markets are consolidating with the top 3 players at 85% of the market
–Regulators will have to be more prudent and proactive about managing competitiveness and growth
8.Mobile Data Traffic will be 95% of the global mobile traffic by 2015
–Many countries are facing spectrum exhaust in the next 5 years
9.Connected device segment is growing at the fastest pace
–Operators will have to quickly adapt their strategies to stay relevant in this segment
10.Several multi-billion dollar opportunity segments are emerging
–Mobile Advertising, Mobile Commerce, Mobile Wellness, Mobile Games, and Mobile Cloud Computing to name a few
11.Mobile Ecosystem has become very dynamic and unpredictable
–Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook have become the most important revenue generating mobile platforms
12. There will be more changes in the next 10 years than in the previous 100
– The value chains will keep disrupting every 12-24 months by the new players and business models
13. Intellectual Property has become a key component of long-term product strategy
– Top 20 control 1/3rd of the overall mobile patent pool
Apple has had the tablet space to itself. Thus far the response from the competitors has been tepid esp. on the pricing dimension. Apple has had such a mastery over the supply-chain and months ahead of the competition that by the time they figure out details, Apple already locks up the pricing advantage for the cycle. OEMs try to catch-up on the features but can’t do on the margins. OEMs can grow the pie by bringing products at a better price points that helps attract different demographics to the mix. Microsoft can make good inroads into the space with its Win8 tablet release in 2012 but it will be again in a catch-up mode as the iOS ecosystem will be even more robust by then. The cheaper Android tablets will do well in the market. As expected, tablets will pretty much eliminate the need for netbooks and are starting to eat into the desktop/laptop revenue.
Nokia and RIM are under severe market scrutiny as investors and developers leave in droves. Lack of product planning and execution has left their market share in disarray. Nokia’s valuation has been cut into half while the newcomer HTC edged past the industry giant in a remarkable story of the year. Nokia’s release of N9 shows the engineering and creative design depth but a lot is riding on the first generation of Nokia Windows Phones. While the market hasn’t shown much appetite for Windows phone thus far, a good family of devices might be able to slow the loss trajectory and position the combined team for the up-for-grabs 3rd spot in the ecosystem. HP’s acquisition of Palm is finally bringing some new products to the market but the lack of an effective ecosystem means lack of traction in 2011. Given that the computing is shifting to mobile devices, we can expect some of the weaker desktop/laptop players will exit the industry.
Tablets are primarily being used in the WiFi mode because the primary use case is indoors and WiFi gives a better (and cheaper) user experience. Once operators start to roll out user-friendly family data plans across multiple devices, we can expect the cellular activation go higher but will still be dominated by WiFi overall.
The number of connected devices per subscriber and per family will continue to increase over the course of this decade. As the cost structure and margin profile for these devices will be different, we are likely to measure performance of various operators using margin analysis for e.g. while the ARPU for connected devices is 5-10 times lower than the postpaid subscribers, the margins are typically higher due to lower costs of sales, marketing, support, and subsidy. As such the overall impact is dilutive ARPU but higher margins. So, instead of focusing on just the ARPU, the efficiency of operators will be measured in how well they maintain average margin per user (AMPU) and average margin per connection (AMPC).
Managing the data growth
As a result of the data tsunami, there are two types of opportunities that are being created, one that take advantage of the data being generated in a way that enhances the user experience and provides value and the other in technologies that help manage the traffic data that will continue to grow exponentially.
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. 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 and thus bringing the hockey stick curves of data cost more in line with the revenues and thus preserving the margins.
The decision making process within the operator organizations will need to be streamlined as well. Operators should also consider creating a senior post which focuses on both the cost side and the solution side so they can devise and institute a sustainable long-term policy and keep the margins healthy.
The Rule of Three is evident in all major markets. While the percentage market share might vary, on an average, the top 3 control 93% of the market in an given nation. It doesn’t matter if the market is defined by “controlled regulation” like in China, Korea, and Japan or if it is “open market” driven in markets such as the US, UK, and India. Eventually, only top 3 operators control the majority of the market. There are niches that others occupy but they are largely irrelevant to the overall structure and functioning of the mobile market.
Markets such as US and India experienced similar competitive environment in their hyper-growth phase. For the US, this phase was in the nineties-mid-2000s while India has been experiencing the similar environment in the last 3-4 years. In both cases, at the start there are 5-6 players with no more than 25% market share but higher than 10% of the mix but gradually the market forces enable consolidation. Over a period of 18 years, US is settling into a “top 3” operator market. India’s brutal price wars are going to trigger the consolidation in the next 12-24 months and will eventually settle into a structure similar to other markets.
The competitive equilibrium point in the mobile industry seems to when the market shares of the top 3 are 46%:29%:18% respectively with the remaining 7% being allocated to the niche operators. To achieve some semblance of equilibrium in the market the top operator shouldn’t have more than 50% of the market share and the number three player shouldn’t have less than 20%. This helps create enough balance in the market to derive maximum value for the consumer.
Mobile operators will face some hard choices in developing and protecting the role they want to play in a given region and the ecosystem at-large. The strategy they choose will have a direct impact on the expected EBITDA margins, investment required over the long-haul, how investors view them, and on the competitive landscape of the country. Given, the fast pace of globalization, new rules and trends might emerge over the course of this decade that further define “communications” and “computing” as we know it.
Apps and Services
As expected, mobile commerce and payment discussions are dominating the ecosystem. There is clearly a lot of investment and marketing dollars being spent. However, the traditional payments networks are largely intact. The new opportunities are being built on top of the existing payment platforms with convenience (Square) and offers and advertising (Google Wallet, ISIS, Groupon). Beyond payments, mobile is getting ingrained into every vertical and every facet of our lives – from healthcare to education, from energy to entertainment, from communication to socialization. And we are in the early innings of figuring out the business models, ecosystem leaders, user behavior, regulatory needs, and the overall impact on society.
It is very clear that the ecosystem dynamics can change very quickly, one just can’t take the competitive and friendly forces for granted. In the past, the silos and segments were clearly defined with little overlap. However, over the course of last couple of years, players have been migrating and surfing in segments across the board - from Apple to Visa, from P&G to AT&T, from Facebook to Time Warner, from Google to Best Buy, every company wants to capture the mindshare and piece of the consumer’s pocketbook. The fine line between partners and competitors can get obliterated in a quarter. Apple is competing with Cisco, Comcast is going after AT&T’s business, Visa and Verizon want to be the payment channel of choice, Amazon is gunning for Microsoft’s enterprise business. One product launch, one acquisition, can change the game in an instant. And this is only the beginning.
Mobile is fundamentally reshaping how we as consumers spend from housing and healthcare to entertainment and travel, from food and drinks to communication and transportation. Mobile not only influences purchase behavior but also post purchase opinions. When the share button is literally a second away, consumers are willingly sharing more information than ever before. Mobile is thus helping close the nirvana gap for brands and advertisers who seek to connect advertising to actual transactions. The long-term battle is however for owning the context of the users. Having the best knowledge about the user to help drive the transaction is the simply the most valuable currency of commerce.
Mobile Future Forward
We will be discussing the global mobile ecosystem – the challenges and the opportunities at our annual mobile thought-leadership summit – Mobile Future Forward - brought to you in partnership with our terrific partners – Qualcomm, Millennial Media, Real Networks, AT&T Interactive, Synchronoss Technologies, OpenMarket, Ericsson, and Openwave. Hope to see you in Seattle on Sept 12th.
Some of the distinguished guests include:
Abhi Ingle, VP – Advanced Mobility, AT&T Wireless; Amit Gupta, SVP and CTO, INQMobile; Bob Gessel, VP/Head of Technology and Network Strategy, Ericsson; Braxton Woodham, Head of Engineering, AVOS; Carlos Domingo, CEO, Telefonica; Charlie Herrin, SVP - Products and Technology, Comcast; Dale Nitschke, former President, Target; Danny Bowman, President - Connected Devices, Sprint Nextel; David Messenger, EVP, Head - Online/Mobile, American Express; Erik Moreno, SVP, Fox; Gibu Thomas, SVP - Online/Mobile, Walmart; Glenn Lurie, President, AT&T Wireless; Hank Skorny, Chief Strategy Officer, Real Networks; Janet Schijns, VP, Verizon Wireless; Jason McKenzie, President, HTC-Americas; Jay Emmet, GM, OpenMarket; Jeremiah Zinn, EVP, MTV; Jerry Batt, CIO, PulteGroup; John SanGiovanni, Cofounder, Zumobi; Ken Denman, CEO, Openwave; Ken Wirth, President, Alcatel Lucent Wireless; Kris Rinne, SVP - Networks, AT&T Wireless; Mark Rolston, Chief Creative Officer, Frog Design; Matt Oommen, President, Reliance Communications; Mikael Back, VP of Products and Portfolio Management, Ericsson; Mike Mulica, President, Synchronoss Technologies; Paul Palmieri, CEO, Millennial Media; Prof. Cliff Nass, Human Computer Interaction, Stanford University; Rob Glaser, Partner, Accel; Sanjiv Ahuja, CEO, LightSquared; Stephen Bye, CTO, Sprint; Steve Mollenkopf, EVP and Group President, Qualcomm; Subba Rao, former CEO, Tata DoCoMo; Suja Chandrasekaran, CIO, Timberland; Will Hsu, Chief Product Officer, AT&T Interactive
More information at http://www.mobilefutureforward.com
Your feedback is always welcome.
Thanks and have a great 2H 2011.
We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, twitter feeds, future research reports, and articles. The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in Aug 2011. The next Global Wireless Market update will be issued in Jan 2012.
Disclaimer: Some of the companies mentioned in this paper are our clients.