Gartner predicts that revenue coming from mobile data services will total $314.7 billion at the end of 2011, representing a 22.5-percent increase from 2010 revenue of $257 billion.
"Mobile data traffic will increase significantly as more people will have access to mobile data networks. There is a migration toward smartphones and an increase in sales of media tablets," Jessica Ekholm, principal research analyst at Gartner, said in a release. "Mobile data volumes will continue to grow as mobile data networks become faster and more ubiquitous, while at the same time the number of data users and data usage per user is expected to grow."
Ekholm added that data revenue will continue to grow but at a much slower rate because of the decoupling of revenue and data traffic. The more data traffic operators carry on their networks, the greater the cost for them to sustain that traffic.
Gartner also predicts that worldwide mobile connections will reach 5.6 billion in 2011, up 11 percent from 5 billion connections in 2010. The firm says worldwide mobile connections will experience steady growth through 2015 when mobile connections are forecast to reach 7.4 billion, and mobile data revenue will reach $552 billion.
In calculating its forecast, Gartner assumed four major mobile data traffic drivers: growth in the number of mobile connections, increasing availability of higher-speed data-centric mobile networks, smartphones, and data-consuming content and applications.
Gartner said it expects operators to increasingly begin moving toward offering more flexible and personalized data plans, which should help capture a larger mobile data user base.
"What carriers currently need are innovative ways to increase data revenue while finding smart solutions to manage a growing demand in data," said Sylvain Fabre, research director at Gartner. "Ultimately, it will be the consumer who chooses the content he or she wants to use, and carriers need to ensure that the quality of experience is good. A substandard user experience may lead to higher churn."
Gartner analysts said carriers should investigate the pros and the cons of more customized pricing plans, such as tiered pricing, a la carte and usage-based plans, carefully weighing additional costs and future benefits. Additionally, operators should look to offer increased flexibility in pricing and introduce add-on pricing models, in which users are able to add data access when they want to. These add-on pricing models could include paying for additional usage and additional speed, and charging a fee for voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or for gaming.
- see this release
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