US Wireless Data Market Update – 2006

chetan_post.JPG By Chetan Sharma

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US Wireless Data Market update – 4Q06 and 2006

US wireless data market continued its rapid growth in 2006. Wireless data service revenues jumped almost 84% to approximately $15.8B (from $8.6B in 2005). The service data revenues are likely to top $27B in 2007.

The average data ARPU climbed 50% while the average voice ARPU declined 7% since EOY 2005. Overall ARPU declined 1% from 2005 levels.

The strongest growth was experienced by Verizon which more than doubled its data revenues, up 101%, followed by Sprint up 69%, T-Mobile up 66% and AT&T (old Cingular) was up 62%. Except for Sprint, rest of the top 4 maintained a double digit growth rate Q-over-Q for the entire year (Sprint’s growth rate was marginally down to single digits in Q2 and Q3 but made up for the loss with a 19% increase in Q4).

The top three carriers again garnered over $1B/quarter in data revenues for the second straight quarter, with Verizon coming out on top with $1.4B followed by AT&T at $1.3B.

The US market added approximately 23M new subscribers or 1.92M subs/month. This puts the market at approx. 78% penetration. We will start to see the decline in market growth from here on.

For the FY2006, Verizon’s data revenues were at $4.4B, AT&T at $4.25B, Sprint Nextel at $4B and TMO US finished the year at $1.6B.

Verizon continued to dominate the 2006 ARPU sweepstakes with approximately 16% of its revenue coming from data services followed by Sprint and AT&T at 14.6%, and TMO US close behind at 13%. The average data ARPU is no at 14.5%. Sprint maintained its leadership in terms of raw data ARPU at $8.75. In fact, its CDMA data ARPU topped $12.

Verizon gained the most number of customers in 2006 with 7.7M net adds followed by AT&T at 6.9M and TMO at 3.3M. Sprint at 1.6M, and Alltel with 1.56M rounded up the top 5.

US 3G subscriber base continues to grow – primarily due to strong showing by Verizon and Sprint Nextel’s aggressive push. AT&T also covered significant ground while TMO is expected to join the fray by EOY 2007. As discussed in our 2005 paper, 2007 is priming to be the inflection year for 3G in US (and Europe). At the end of 2006, 3G penetration stood at approximately 10%.

US Off-net revenues for the year exceeded $750M.

In 2006, Data ARPU of CDMA/EV-DO carriers was 21% higher than GSM/WCDMA carriers.

Several high-profile MVNOs were launched over the course of last year and the overall results haven’t been favorable primarily due to poor execution, instant crowding effect, and competition from big 4. Mobile ESPN was first to bow out. Helio and Amp’D have boasted $100 ARPU and 100K subscriber base but the burn rate and Cost of Customer Acquisition remains quite high.

US wireless carriers maintained their strong showing vis-à-vis their peers worldwide. Verizon, Cingular, and Sprint maintained their ranking # 4, 5, and 6 respectively, amongst the top 10 operators worldwide in terms of total wireless data revenue generated for 2006. US is the only country with 3 operators who generated $4B or more in data revenues in 2006 and are going over $1B/quarter now.

For the second straight quarter- TMO US outperformed its parent TMO Germany

Though mobile enterprise data growth doesn’t make headlines, there has been steady growth in deployments and revenues generated for carriers and product vendors. Verizon alone reported over 33% of its data revenues or $462M from the enterprise users in 4Q06.

In terms of wireless investments, over $6.4B was invested in wireless related companies/startups in 2006. Source: Rutberg. Mobile TV/Video, Mobile Personalization, Mobile Search and Advertising, Semiconductor, Carrier infrastructure, Device design and development are hot areas. M&A activity also picked up quite significantly.

For the year 2006, mobile shipments eclipsed 1B mark for the first time with Nokia leading the way at over 347M in phone sales.

Smartphone penetration increased into double digits and is slowly approaching the inflection point.

2006 started the realignment for “quad-play” and “quintuple play” positioning in the market. Clearly, bundling enhances life value of the customer and lowers churn but do you do it through partnership or investment is the question on the table.

Global update (more details in our worldwide data market update coming out soon)

The worldwide markets ended with approximately 2.6B connections and are going to top 3B by end of 2007. Significant growth is coming from India and China with India registering an astounding 7M net adds every month now. China is close behind at 6M/month. Overall, the world market is slowly approaching 50% penetration (should reach the target in first half of 2008) with approx. 41% penetration at the end of 2006.

· NTT DoCoMo became the first carrier to cross $10B/yr in data revenues for a given calendar year. It was followed by China Mobile at $8.6B.

· Worldwide Handset market share 2006: Nokia maintained its number one position with 36% market share. Motorola increased its market share by 4 percentage points to 23%, Samsung dropped a point to 11%. Sony Ericsson edged past LG with 9% while LG dropped to 6%. Nokia shipped over 100M handsets in 4Q06 (a first by any OEM). Nokia’s ASP dropped by $2 from EOY 2005 while Motorola’s dropped by a whopping $27 putting the company in struggle mode. Sony Ericsson bucked the trend and increased its ASP by $17 showing a strong comeback.

Most of the major carriers around the world have double digit percentage contribution to their overall ARPU from data services. Operators like KDDI, DoCoMo, and O2 UK are topping 30%.

China Mobile became the world’s most valued operator surpassing Vodafone.

2007 – Early signs

iPhone: What’s in your pocket? – The launch of iPhone after years of rumors captured the imagination and headlines of the industry. The bar has been raised.

Mobile Advertising – Tremendous activity (trials and press releases) in this area though there is confusion in the industry w.r.t the definition and the standardization process.

LBS, GPS, and Navigation – It is becoming mainstream. What! We will have to pay for it?

Enterprise Applications – Mobile Enterprise sector is quietly making strides with mobile becoming an integral part of corporate IT strategy though several challenges remain.

Emerging Markets – Growth is in emerging markets but who gets to make money?

Content Interoperability – Access to content across devices and networks is a challenge.

Convergence – Mobile is converging with Net, Net is converging with cable, wireless phone is converging with desktop phone, voice is converging with data, CBS is converging with YouTube, Skype is converging with Qwest, … you get the picture.

Others to watch – NFC, WiMAX, FemtoCells, Mobile IM, 4G, Mediaflo.

Your comments are always welcome.

Chetan Sharma

Recent Publications/Media mentions

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Upcoming Events

13-14 March, Digital Media Summit, Los Angeles

26-29 March, CTIA/Billboard, Orlando

17 April, MoTV, Las Vegas

16-17 May, MEF, Los Angeles

6-8 July, IIT 2007 Global Conference, Santa Clara

22-25 Aug, iHollywood China, Beijing

Monthly – PAN IIT PNW, Google Kirkland Campus

TBD – EMC and CSC on Wireless data markets

In addition, Chetan will be doing some private briefings to carriers, content providers and enterprise solution providers

© Chetan Sharma Consulting 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Chetan Sharma Consulting is a consulting and advisory firm helping companies in the mobile and voice communications sector. Our expertise is in developing innovation-driven product, marketing, and IP strategy. We’ve helped companies like NTT DoCoMo, Samsung, Virgin, KTF, Sprint Nextel, Reuters, Disney, Qualcomm, Infospace, Reliance, BEA, HP, Merrill Lynch, Cincinnati Bell, Bain, SAP, Vulcan, American Express, and many others. What can we do for you? www.chetansharma.com

If you have questions or suggestions or feedback on this subject or on the wireless & mobile industry at large, please contact us at feedback@chetansharma.com – we look forward to hearing from you.

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