"The mobile world is undeniably shifting from voice to data, as mobile operators migrate as many subscribers as they can to data service plans and smartphones," says Stephane Teral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research.
Already in North America and Asia Pacific, mobile operators derive over 40 percent of their mobile revenue from mobile broadband and messaging. But, while mobile broadband is no doubt the fastest growing revenue stream for network operators, mobile messaging and voice aren't dead just yet.
According to Teral's assessment, the prophecies of doom for mobile operators' SMS/MMS cash cow are being overplayed. Despite the popularity of over-the-top messaging applications like Apple's iMessage and WhatsApp, his data shows SMS growing every year from 2012 to 2016, delivering a cumulative $1 trillion in operator revenue during those 5 years.
And, over that same period, voice revenue will decline only slightly, still making up a sizable chunk of mobile network operator revenues.
Highlights from the latest market study include:
- On a global basis, Infonetics expects operators to see a 6 percent increase overall in revenue from mobile voice, mobile broadband, and mobile messaging services in 2012.
- The highest growth in 2012 will come from Asia Pacific and Latin America, while the EMEA region is expected to see a slight decline due to cutthroat competition and economic turmoil.
- Globally, the mobile network services market is forecast to grow to $976 billion by 2016, with the bulk of the growth coming from mobile broadband services.
- Mobile data (text messaging, multimedia messaging, and mobile broadband) service revenue rose in every region in 2011, driven by an increase in smartphone usage.
- At more than a quarter trillion dollars in 2011, Asia Pacific generates the largest portion of mobile service revenue.
- Voice revenue dipped 0.8 percent worldwide in 2011, despite the growing use of voice services in China.
- Mobile broadband subscribers will grow from 15 percent to nearly 40 percent of all mobile subscribers between 2011 and 2016.