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A New First In Mobile: Data Traffic Outstripped Voice Traffic Last Year

Mobile data has been growing at a fast clip since the iPhone went on sale almost three years ago. But with the introduction of many more data-focused devices, the industry continues to break records.

In a report released today, telecom consultant Chetan Sharma tallied up the financial statements of carriers from around the world to get a comprehensive look exactly what happened last year. For the first time ever, he said that on a global basis mobile phones were used more for accessing data than they were to make calls, and that global data traffic exceeded an Exabyte of data. What’s more, if this pace continues he said both North America and Western Europe will exceed an Exabyte each in 2010, and that the total number of mobile broadband connections will exceed the number of fixed connections. In all, there’s 4.6 billion cellphone subscribers worldwide with a penetration rate above 68 percent.

The comprehensive report covers everything from revenues to applications to text-messaging trends and mergers and acquisitions. But the high-level take-away is that the mobile data trend is continuing to be a large part of the business and is extending to much more complex things beyond text messaging. Sharma reported that global mobile data revenues reached $220 billion and that mobile data now contributes 26 percent of all revenues worldwide. However, data revenues were unable to offset declines in voice revenues, so overall revenues stayed flat at around $1.1 trillion. Sharma explains that declines were mostly due to the recession and from fierce competition.

Regional breakdown:

Of course not all regions are equal, and the adoption of data is occurring unevenly around the globe. On a global basis, data revenues contribute 26 percent of all revenues, but for some carriers, like Japan’s NTT DoCoMo (NYSE: DCM), it is as high as 50 percent.

— The U.S. extended its lead over Japan as the most valuable mobile data market in service revenue with U.S. adding $44.56 billion, and Japan recording $32.5 billion in 2009. China was in third place with $20.3 billion. The U.S. registered the fastest growth among the top three carriers with more than 40 percent increase in 2009 compared to 2008.

— NTT DoCoMo continues to dominate the wireless data industry by recording more than $16 billion in data revenues in 2009. NTT DoCoMo was followed by Verizon Wireless, China Mobile, AT&T (NYSE: T), KDDI, Sprint (NYSE: S) Nextel, Softbank Mobile, T-Mobile USA, O2 UK, and China Unicom to round up the top 10 operators by wireless data service revenues.

3 Responses to “A New First In Mobile: Data Traffic Outstripped Voice Traffic Last Year”

  1. Walter

    “Flat rate data plans are the future”? With both North American giants, Verizon Wireless and AT&T signaling repeatedly over the last 18 months that such plans will necessarily face extinction, I don’t think so.

    If (and when?) this happens, I’d like to see shared data access plans. Currently, the U.S. ‘s Big 4 carriers, require a $30 data plan for each smartphone-carrying line. Pooling access may speed the adoption of smartphones among families.