Revenues from mobile data services are set to exceed US$200 billion (â‚¬127 billion) this year for the first time, according to data sourced from Informa Telecoms & Media's latest World Cellular Data Metrics. Total mobile data revenues were approximately US$157 billion in 2007.
In the first quarter of 2008, mobile data service revenues exceeded US$49 billion (â‚¬31.12), accounting for a 42.7% year-on-year increase. This figure means that mobile operators now generate approximately one fifth of their revenue from data services; this is significant given that a general slowdown in voice revenues is forcing the pace around the importance of data services for mobile operators.
Informa Telecoms & Media estimates that non-SMS data contributed US$17.48 billion (â‚¬11.13 billion) of revenue in Q1 08, accounting for 35.6% of total data revenues.
Growth drivers for the increase in data revenues include the acceleration in deployment of advanced technologies, an increasingly competitive market and growing consumer demand for mobile data services driven by popular data-optimised devices such as Apple's iPhone.
The Asia Pacific region comprises 40% of the world's data revenues (over US$20 billion - â‚¬12.74 billion - in Q1 08), representing an above average year-on-year growth rate of 48%.
Hard on its heels is Europe, in terms of revenue, at US$15.77 billion (â‚¬10.04 billion) due to a year-on-year growth rate of 35.4%. It accounts for 33% of the world's data usage.
The biggest regional riser, however, is the Middle East, which despite contributing just 2% of the world's data revenues in the first quarter of 2008, has seen a 91.7% year-on-year increase in this figure to US$927 million (â‚¬590.46 million). Aiding this acceleration is the 321% year-on-year rise in the number of HSPA subscribers in the region, which reached 2.9 million by the end of March 2008.
Further next-generation deployment should also ensure rapid growth in Africa and the Americas, which accounted for just 2% and 5% of global data revenues at the end of Q1 2008.
With the increased deployment of fixed wireless telephony, the popularity of EV-DO data cards continues to spread across Africa, now available in 18 markets. Similarly, in Latin America, operators are hopeful for increases in data revenues from WCDMA and HSDPA launches.
According to Informa Telecoms & Media's World Cellular Data Metrics, the operator to generate the highest non-voice revenues in the quarter is Japan's NTT DoCoMo (US$3.6 billion, â‚¬2.29 billion), having overtaken China Mobile (US$3.5 billion, â‚¬2.22. billion), which had been the largest generator of data revenues for the previous three quarters.
In terms of data as a percentage of overall revenue, Filipino mobile operator Smart Communications is the world's market leader and the only carrier to depend on non-voice revenues for more than 50% of its income, such is the high level of SMS usage in the country.
Nick Jotischky, Principal Analyst, Informa