US mobile network operators are struggling to keep up with a surge in data traffic, with diminishing returns to show for their efforts, according to Chetan Sharma Consulting.
Mobile data consumption soared 193% in 2009 to nearly 400 petabytes, yet data service revenues grew by just 29% to $44 billion, the report states.
And the market is projected to grow by just 20% in 2010 to $54 billion.
Data ARPU meanwhile increased by just 4%, or $0.53, although that came against a $0.98 decline in voice ARPU and a $0.45 decline in blended ARPU.
The research firm predicts the contribution from data to overall revenues will hit 33% by end 2010, up from 29% at end-2009.
Mobile penetration is at 99% in the US for everybody over 5 years old, Chetan Sharma said, leaving little room for growth in terms of subscribers.
GigaOM said the slowing subscriber growth rate will force operators to more effectively monetize data traffic – which is why incumbents AT&T and Verizon are planning to implement metered billing.