The nation’s two largest carriers added more connected devices last quarter than postpaid subscriptions, according to data released this morning by Chetan Sharma, a wireless analyst. Carriers added 2.6 million connected devices and 1.2 million contract customers. In his quarterly update, Sharma noted that wireless penetration in the U.S. reached 95 percent and surpassed 100 percent if one takes out children younger than five. While there are only 20 million connected devices out of 311.3 million subscriptions, the devices are where the growth is.
Other than making you wonder what six-year-olds are toting cell phones, the data indicates that the Internet of things has clearly dawned, and with it, a new arena of competition. So far AT&T is banking heavily on it and has even won some deals, in part because its GSM-based network is compatible with the networks used in the rest of the world, while Verizon and Sprint’s CDMA networks are U.S.-only. Such incompatibilities mean device-makers would have to make separate products for the U.S., which adds expenses and complications. It also means connected devices wouldn’t travel internationally and retain a connection. This issue of incompatible networks may be another reason that Verizon is pushing its LTE launch so aggressively, and why a transition to LTE will benefit Clearwire-Sprint in the long term. For more on the growth of the Internet of things, check out our panel devoted to the topic at our Mobilize conference in September.
In addition to the rise of more connected gadgets, Sharma points out that U.S. consumers are data hogs on smartphones, using 230 MB on average — a number that’s up 50 percent in the last six months. He writes:
[The] US has become ground zero for mobile broadband consumption and data traffic management evolution. While it lags Japan and Korea in 3G penetration by a distance, due to higher penetration of smartphones and datacards, the consumption is much higher than its Asian counterparts. Given that it is also becoming the largest deployment base for HSPA+ and LTE, most of the cutting edge research in areas of data management and experimentation with policy, regulations, strategy, and business models is taking place in the networks of the U.S. operators and keenly watched by players across the global ecosystem.
Kinda makes you rethink the value of AT&T’s $15 per month 200 MB data plan, huh?
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