report on U.S. mobile data for the last quarter of 2010, and it points to the growth in the wireless market, in mobile penetration and in data usage. According to Sharma, the U.S. wireless data market grew 5% from the third quarter of 2010 and was up 23% from 2009 For the entire year, revenues were $55 billion, a figure that Sharma predicts will increase to $67 billion by the end of 2011.Wireless consultant Chetan Sharma has just released an updated
As Sharma observes, the mobile market crossed a number of important thresholds in the last quarter of 2010. Mobile subscriptions crossed the 100% penetration mark, for example. And smartphone shipments exceeded PC shipments for the first time.
But it's important to note that these new mobile subscriptions aren't all phones. In fact, the shape of the subscription market is changing quite dramatically, with connected devices outpacing the growth of paid and prepaid subscriptions quite dramatically. Connected devices - tablets, e-readers, and so on - are now 7% of subscriptions. That category isn't simply the fastest growing; Sharma also predicts that this will soon become the most profitable. By the end of this year, connected devices will command double digit market share.
Sharma contends that multi-device data pricing plans will be an important key for success of this segment, as Wi-Fi isn't always practical or dependable. He argues that operators who start to bundle devices under a single data plan will likely do well - an observation that coincides with AT&T's announcement today that it will start selling the Kindle through its stores.
This continued growth in connected devices is clearly important to AT&T, which now has to compete with Verizon for iPhone customers. According to Sharma, connected devices are now 10% of AT&T's subscription base. AT&T has edged ahead of Verizon in terms of the number of connected devices, but for both providers - for all providers in fact - the key will not simply be wooing subscribers but finding a way to adjust billing to keep pace with U.S. consumers' ever-increasing mobile data consumption.