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Rural Consumers Drive Mobile Phone Growth

Annual mobile service revenues in the Asia Pacific region will increase by more than 16 percent from 2009 to $326.37 billion by end-2013 -- with growth driven by the continuing rise in mobile subscriptions and greater usage of data services.

Informa's latest market study forecasts that the region's total subscriptions base will increase by over 500 million, or almost 25 percent, from 2.03 billion at end-2009 to 2.53 billion at end-2013.

"The robust growth will be spurred in particular by immense expansion in China and India, and also higher-than-expected subscription increases in developing markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam," said Nicole McCormick, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

Prepaid connections will continue to be the primary tariff option with the number of prepaid users rising from 1.52 billion in 2009 to 1.97 billion by 2013, accounting for approximately 90 percent of total net additions.

As a result, prepaid penetration in the regional will rise from 74.8 percent in 2009 to 77.7 percent in 2013.

"Continued growth is being prompted in most markets by operator expansion into rural regions, as mobile take-up in large cities reaches full saturation," says McCormick. She adds that leading operators in China and India already claim that more than 50 percent of their quarterly net additions now come from rural customers.

However, with subscriptions growth being driven by low-income segments, ARPU is also being adversely affected. Informa forecasts that blended ARPU across the region will fall from $12.33 in 2009 to $10.88 in 2013.

At the same time, however, the region is fast becoming a powerhouse of wireless-broadband take-up, with cheap HSPA services helping to fuel both the growth in subscriptions and in revenues.

As voice revenues level off, and actually decline towards the end of the period, data revenues are forecast to rise from 30 percent of total revenues in 2009 to 38 percent by end-2013.

Overall penetration will rise from 53.4 percent end-2009 to 64 percent end-2013, while actual subscriber penetration increasing from 42.9 to 51.2 percent over the same period.

The difference in subscriber versus subscription penetration shows the importance of multi-SIM ownership, with each subscriber owning, on average, 1.24 SIMs in 2009 and 1.25 SIMs in 2013.

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