Operators have traditionally made their money from the services that made landline phones popular a century ago: voice. Then SMS came and the profit margin on those, since they’re a fraction of a penny to send and receive, paved the way for yet another infusion of cash that could be used to do useful things like further improve the network, or stupid things like build custom firmware for devices because an operator somehow knows something about their customers better than the people who actually make mobile devices. Bickering aside, it’s nearly the end of 2010 and as of last quarter’s financial results from AT&T and Verizon, America’s two largest operators, data revenue is at 35% and 35% respectively on their total take.
This is going to be a problem since voice and SMS traffic are increasingly making up a smaller and smaller portion of total network usage. Operators need to keep on building networks, and if they’re not making money from the primary source of traffic on what they’ve got deployed today, then the future looks grim. Japanese operator DOCOMO is on track to become the first operator to make more money from data than voice and SMS. It makes sense too when the average American uses 622 minutes of talk time, unlike Japan who is at a low of 136 minutes and the UK who isn’t doing any better with 162 minutes.
We’ve seen before that it was a bit silly to make the assumption that people of all nations use their phones for the same things. Nearly 6 out of 10 Japanese people use their mobile browser on a regular basis, compared to 1 out of 3 Americans and 1 out of 4 Europeans. That and Japanese services are so closely tied to mobile websites that you can probably live on that island without having to buy a personal computer.
[Via: Fierce Wireless]