The U.S. wireless market is reaching a point where pretty much everyone who wants a mobile phone has one, leaving providers at a point where they have to determine other ways to boost their revenues.
According to a new report from PwC, increasing consumer demand for data services (and the quality of the network that provides it) may become the differentiating point for most U.S. carriers. According to the survey, tablet connections grew an average of 43% year-over-year , thanks to higher demand from businesses and consumers. Additionally, smartphones accounted for 60% of new device sales in 2012 (up 46% from 2011) and 70% of upgrades (an increase of 40% from 2011). Meanwhile, consumers are showing a decreasing use of voice services, in favor of more data heavy services, according to the recent survey.
To meet the demand, wireless operators are well along the path toward improving their networks. According to the 2012 survey, 11 of the 13 carriers responding in the U.S. and Canada said they had their own cell sites using 4G technology, compared with only five from the 2011 survey. Additionally, 65% of the carriers’ cell sites used 4G technology (covering 60% of the subscriber base) in 2012, compared with only 46% (which only covered 53% of the subscriber base) in 2011.
“Driven by the complexity and cost of maintaining multiple technologies, more carriers are preparing to decommission their older networks as more subscribers continue to upgrade more quickly to new devices,” said Shara Slattery, PwC partner and managing editor of the North American wireless industry survey, in a release. “Pressured to make the most of existing spectrum, network operators and equipment vendors are considering new approaches to network deployment including focusing on small cells and finding better ways to make valuable legacy assets be available for reuse.”