Mobile Data Commands Nearly Half Of Carrier Revs, Smartphones Lead Usage

iphone5Mobile data revenues among U.S. wireless carriers in the third quarter approached half (48%) of total industry service revenue, underscoring the rising demand for non-voice services by customers. The actual crossover point of 50% could come in the next quarter.

Smartphones and tablets are generating much of the mobile content usage benefiting operators’ top lines. U.S. smartphone penetration has surpassed 64%, and smartphones accounted for almost 90% of devices sold in the third quarter, according to the latest update on the state of the U.S. mobile market by Chetan Sharma Consulting.

Among the four major U.S. carriers, Apple led the way in smartphone sales, with 42% share in the quarter.

Gartner on Thursday released a separate third-quarter report showing Samsung again was the top vendor in worldwide smartphone sales, with 32% share compared to 12% for Apple. Among smartphone platforms, Android accounted for a dominant 82% share of devices sold in the quarter, with iOS a distant second at 12%, and Windows Phone increasing to 3.6%.

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Apple is expected to get a boost in the year-end quarter from sales of the iPhone 5S and 5C iPhones launched in late September. But the Gartner suggested the price difference between the flagship 5S and the lower-priced 5C wasn’t wide enough in mature markets to drive users away from the top-of-the-line model. The 5S is too highly priced for emerging markets, where the iPhone 4S will continue to drive sales at the low end.

When it comes to tablets, Chetan Sharma noted the device type is already approaching 100 million units a year in sales. While Android devices are making inroads, he noted that Apple remains the undisputed leader in the category, mainly because of superior hardware and its far-reaching ecosystem. “Android tablets can be cheap but also unreliable, the life expectancy of such tablets can be 50% or so compared to the iPad,” he wrote. “The usage is even less.”

The report also highlighted that the number of companies making $100 million or more from mobile per quarter continues to increase rapidly. That includes nontraditional wireless businesses like Facebook, which had almost a $1 billion in quarterly revenue from mobile, and Twitter, which had $117 million, or 60% of total sales, in mobile.

“There are now dozens of such players and the list is just growing," Sharma noted.

Among other key findings from the Sharma research:

*In the U.S., Verizon and AT&T dominated the quarter accounting for 71% of the mobile data services revenue and had 68% of the subscription base.

*Shared data plans from the two largest carriers have proven popular, helping to drive adoption of cellular tablets and connected devices.

*Globally, China Mobile went passed both Verizon and AT&T to claim the No. 1 operator in mobile data service revenues.

 

 

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