US mobile operators generated almost 6 percent of revenues from data in the fourth quarter of 2004 (a dollar figure of $1.6 billion), with the figure expected to grow to over 15 percent by 2008, according to research firm IDC. Messaging, including SMS and IM, generated 50 percent of sales, which is good news for carriers. A few years ago many carriers were concerned that SMS made up about 95 percent of data revenue, and were anxious to increase other data revenue.
Not all the other data is from third party content providers (it also includes things like EV-DO cards and air time charges), and combined with different rates of revenue sharing it’s hard to work out what percentage of mobile content revenue makes its way into the broader industry. A reasonable estimate (or guestimate, if you prefer) is that about a third of non-messaging data revenue goes to people other than the carriers, or about $267 million. That’s not a definitive figure, but it gives an idea of the approximate size.
Sprint had the largest average revenue per user (ARPU), which the article put down to “Sprint’s strategy of spending money on the latest digital services and offering its subscribers a model of unlimited content for a monthly fee”.