By 2013 Ovum forecasts 5.63 billion connections, up 43% from 2008. However, Ovum does not feel that these are overly bullish projections given current market conditions.
Global penetration in 2008 is estimated at 59% and is predicted to rise to just 80% by 2013. We expect prepaid connections to constitute 73% of connections in 2013 (up from 70% in 2008), so multiple SIM ownership will ensure that real population penetration will be lower.
Emerging markets are key to this continued growth. The China-India region (containing China and India, as well as Pakistan and Bangladesh) will continue to be the main connections growth engine, with a Cumulative Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12% up to 2013. Yet even here penetration is only forecast to rise from 40% in 2008 to 67% in 2013. Asia-Pacific and Africa are also expected to add to the staggering number of connections. We believe that adoption in rural areas will continue, but the penetration growth will naturally slow as fewer areas remain untouched by mobile.
As a result of the growing importance of emerging markets, a shift in the global balance of operator power is expected. An increasing share of customers in emerging markets will go to the new, rapidly expanding players such as Zain and Orascom.
The result will be a raft of new, large scale global players by 2013. Today's European-based giants will face increasingly intense competition from equally large or larger competitors at both global and local levels. Efficiency and maximizing synergies from their scale will be the critical success factor for both the old and new heavyweights.
By 2013 the total service revenues to operators globally is forecast to reach $1.1 trillion, up 23% from 2008. However, this is a significantly lower growth rate than the 43% jump in connections.
The sheer volume of connections in emerging markets will be crucial in enabling operators to breach the $1 trillion service revenues threshold (expected in 2010). However, operators seeking connections growth must ensure that they can survive on very low Average Revenue per User (ARPU).
Voice will remain the most crucial revenue generator for operators, due to the increasing emphasis on emerging markets, and contribute 73% of global revenues in 2013. Furthermore, voice will continue to be the greatest cash generator in every region by 2013, including Europe and North America.
With all the excitement surrounding mobile data it is easy to lose sight of the fact that communication is still the "˜killer app' for the telecoms industry. Operators must not "˜kill the cash cow' and should focus on offering voice services as cost-effectively as possible, while maintaining quality.
Data: This time it's for real, but operators must focus on access not content
After years of false starts 2008 has finally seen mobile data services take off. Data (including messaging) revenue is forecast to grow 79% globally over the coming five years.
Developed markets will be key to this growth, accounting for 53% of data revenues in 2013.
We do not believe that many operators will be successful in providing content. Players from the internet domain will be better-placed, so demand from the operator will be for access.
However, according to Ovum's reports these internet players, such as Google and Apple, will not be able to destroy the mobile operators.
They may take content revenues from the operators, but access will more than compensate. They also offer operators new service opportunities through partnerships. Operators will have more to fear from rival operators over the next five years than external players.