Worldwide mobile connections will reach 5.6bn this year, an increase of 11pc from 5bn connections in 2010, according to Gartner, Inc.
Mobile data services revenue will reach US$314.7bn in 2011, a 22.5pc rise from 2010 revenue of US$257bn.
“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,” said Jessica Ekholm, principal research analyst at Gartner.
“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.”
Data revenue will continue to grow, Ekholm said, but at a slower rate.
“This is causing a decoupling between revenue and data traffic, and it is also creating an increase in network costs for carriers as they try to sustain growing data traffic,” Ekholm said.
Worldwide mobile connections will experience steady growth through 2015, when mobile connections are forecast to reach 7.4bn, and mobile data revenue will reach US$552bn.
Drivers of mobile data traffic
In calculating its forecast, Gartner assumed there are 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.
More mobile connections will lead to higher demands on communication service providers’ (CSPs’) data networks, as more people access the networks to use mobile data and to send text messages.
In addition to the total number of connections growing, Gartner also expects mobile data usage per connection will increase throughout the forecast period and that there will be a shift in mobile users’ perception of mobile data around the world, as data plans go from being seen as a luxury, to being considered a nice-to-have service, to being perceived as potentially essential.
Gartner expects CSPs to increasingly start moving toward offering more flexible and more personalised 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.”