Déjà vu with data growth

We have been here before. Data traffic already exceeds voice on many mobile networks. And it is predicted to increase 1000-fold within a decade as wireless becomes the world’s primary method of Internet access. A massive surge in fixed network traffic started approximately 15 years ago. Data surpassed and then dwarfed voice as Internet access and IP services drove exponential growth.

Major fiber investments around the millennium provided copious amounts of cheap bandwidth for consumers. Unfortunately, overinvestment followed by bankruptcies and significant retrenchment proved to be a painful experience for many network service providers, their vendor-financed suppliers and other investors. The question is: Will these mistakes be repeated in the bonanza to turn 3 billion mobile voice and text users into mobile broadband consumers on Long Term Evolution (LTE) and 4G networks?

Mobile broadband economics

To help ensure profitable growth, mobile operators are revamping their business models. This will include charging on the basis of speeds, data volumes, service levels and advanced services which can be combined with the raw connectivity.

In the fixed telecoms boom of the 1990s, aggressive pricing on highly commoditized connectivity services and vendor financing exposed many operators and their suppliers to significant losses. Today, operators and technology vendors must be careful to ensure services are more differentiated and expenditures are better matched to their revenues.

Some players triumphed through the fixed Internet access revolution. These included incumbent local phone companies, leading DSL equipment suppliers, and many web companies including Amazon.com and Google. But there were also significant financial casualties such as some national backbone and international communications service providers, fiber optic transmission equipment manufacturers and many ISPs. The challenge will be to figure out which strategies will be required to capitalize upon the mobile broadband revolution while avoiding previous mistakes.


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