Just like that, in the fourth quarter of 2013 mobile data usage ticked up to reach a crossover point, making data a bigger revenue source for carriers than voice services. From this point on data will be the primary growth driver for the U.S. mobile industry, while voice will recede in the rearview mirror.
Mobile analyst Chetan Sharma predicted this voice-data flip would occur last year, and he turned out to be right on target. In the fourth quarter, mobile data revenues grew 5 percent quarter over quarter and 20 percent year over year to $24.8 billion, barely eclipsing voice revenues, according to Sharma’s most recent U.S. Wireless Market Update. In total, U.S. carriers brought in $90 billion from mobile data plans in 2013.
The U.S. is actually only the seventh country to meet this milestone. The first was Japan, which now has a 70-30 split between data and voice. But given the size of the U.S. market and its upsurge in mobile data adoption in recent years, Sharma expects the U.S. to become the first country to break the $100 billion mark in annual mobile data revenues. Sharma even composed a handy chart detailing the history of mobile data adoption in the U.S. and how it will hit that $100 billion milestone.