Mobile operators must learn to live without voice

19 Dec 2006

With average revenue per user (ARPU) levels falling, mobile operators are under pressure to derive greater financial performance from non-voice revenue streams like data, a new report by telecom advisor Analysys said today.

The Analysys report said that voice ARPU is declining for nearly all mobile operators, although a small number have managed to reverse the trend. Annual churn levels vary widely around the world, from less than 10pc to over 50pc.

In November the two largest mobile operators in Ireland, Vodafone and O2 respectively, reported declining ARPU levels despite customer growth. Vodafone saw blended ARPU reach €46.90, down from €53.10 for the same period a year ago.

O2 said that average revenue per user (ARPU) for prepay customers was down from €31 last year to €29 this year. ARPU for post-pay customers was also down to €83 from €88 last year.

According to Analysys, non-voice ARPU is flat for the majority of the world’s mobile operators in developed markets, with very few operators outside of Japan breaking through the US$10 per month barrier.

“Despite some disappointing findings, the best-in-class operators are demostrating the way forward,” according to co-author Alastair Brydon.

“O2 UK has increased non-voice ARPU by 19pc per annum, to USD$12 per month, by stimulating the usage of SMS in a number of ways, without sacrificing its price.

“3 UK has leap-frogged over Japanese operators to achieve the highest non-voice ARPU levels in the world, by exploiting the capabilities of its 3G network to offer a host of innovative 3G services, such as mobile TV, music downloads and user-generated content,” Brydon said.

By John Kennedy