US Mobile Market Update Q3 2011 @chetansharma


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Once a quarter I get this from Chetan Sharma - an excellent US based mobile analyst  


The US mobile market continued its blistering pace of growth and ecosystem restructuring. While China and India lay claim to the fastest growing markets on the planet, the many of the meaningful and impactful trends are originating out of the US market with software at the epicenter of creation, growth, change, evolution, and destruction.

The US wireless data market grew 5% Q/Q and 21% Y/Y to reach $17B in mobile data service revenues in Q3 2011 and is on course to increase Y/Y by 22% to $67B in 2011.

As predicted, Samsung overtook Apple as the leading smartphone OEM. However, Apple will continue to dominate profit share for the foreseeable future.

Smartphones continued to be sold at a brisk pace accounting for 57% of the devices sold in Q3 2011. Operators are averaging 70% of their postpaid sales as smartphones with Android dominating though iPhone leads in mindshare. The featurephone as a device species is on the verge of extinction.

Mobile Ecosystem Complexity

As expected, Amazon entered the mobile tablet space with a killer value proposition - $200 for a tablet, something the market sorely needed. While other OEMs tried to compete with Apple on performance (and have been retreating from the market one by one), Amazon is entering the battle on its own turf – a hardware platform built on Android with a slew of services to underwrite the device discount. Incumbent OEMs just can’t compete with that strategy without a complete rethink of their product strategy. What happens when Amazon’s strategy migrates to handsets? While Kindle Fire is not a serious threat to Apple iPad, and the current version has a lot of deficiencies, Amazon has carved out a nice market for itself that will continue to grow in the coming days. In some sense, with its tight integration of commerce, cloud, and advertising, it has out-maneuvered even Google.

Amazon’s impact will be felt by many others in 2012 as its strategy becomes more apparent. Retailers will be facing the brunt of the wave that Amazon represents i.e. etailers supplanting physical retailers. Don’t be surprised if Amazon purses Apple like stores to showcase its merchandize and puts a dagger at the heart of retail.

Google has done a masterful job of shepherding Android through the turbulent platform waters and make it the dominant mobile platform in terms of shipments.

Microsoft and Nokia finally introduced the Windows devices and it has at least given them a fighting chance in 2012, though a far more competitive offering would be needed to make any significant market share or revenue share inroads. Microsoft’s Xbox/Kinect integration remains its best card for 2012.

In a severe case of corporate schizophrenia, HP first launched webOS devices, then backed away, then thought of re-launching only to give it away to open source. Similarly, RIM faces critical test in 2012 and all its hopes are pinned on the new OS that is expected to come to the market sometime next year.

Mobile is changing the way we spend

It is very clear that mobile will be at the center of the human evolution for years to come. Mobile collapses time and distance and as such impacts every facet of our lives. While we have come to know the mobile phone as a communications device, their role in our daily lives has been expanding. >From checking emails, paying for tickets, sending money transfers, taking pictures of your kids, watching soccer World Cup live, checking commodity pricing, to emergency response to mHealth (mobile Health), mobile devices have become an essential tool to help us navigate our day.

Mobile also plays a key role in how we go about the most basic transaction in a given day that keeps the economy humming – spend. We discussed this and more in the paper “How Mobile Will Change The Way We Spend”  that was released last quarter.

Analysis of the Q3 2011 US wireless data market is:

Service Revenues

 The US Wireless data service revenues grew 5% Q/Q and 21% Y/Y to $17B in Q3 2011. The mobile data services revenues for the US market are on track to reach $67B in 2011.

Verizon and AT&T had a good mobile data quarter accounting for 62% of the increase in data revenues in Q3 2011.

For the quarter, AT&T and Verizon accounted for 69% of the market data services revenues and 62% of the subscription base.

Verizon maintained its #1 ranking again just edging past NTT DoCoMo who came in at number two with $5.95B in data revenues for the quarter. AT&T maintained its #3 position with $5.6B in data revenues. Sprint and T-Mobile maintained their #6 and #8 rank in the top 10 mobile data operators list for Q3 2011.


The Overall ARPU increased by $0.31. Average voice ARPU declined by $0.49 while the average data ARPU grew by $0.80 or 4% Q/Q.

The average industry percentage contribution of data to overall ARPU was 37.6% in Q3 2011 and is likely to exceed 40% by Q1 2012. As expected, Verizon became the first US operator to eclipse the 40% mark with AT&T and Sprint close behind. (for reference, all three major Japanese operators are now above the 50% mark).

The top three operators were neck-and-neck in data ARPU each recording a 39%+ performance. T-Mobile ended the quarter exceeding the 30% mark for the first time.

We expect data revenues to exceed voice revenues in the US market in early 2013.


 Helped by the growth in connected devices, the overall net-adds increased by 4.9M with Verizon accounting for almost 50% of the growth.

For the eight straight quarter, AT&T reported more net-adds from connected devices than postpaid subs. AT&T now accounts for 43% of connected devices in the US (w/ cellular subscription of some sort).

Overall, AT&T has 43% of the connected device share of the market. The connected device segment growth slowed down to 8% Q/Q and is still up 32% Y/Y.

Sprint added more than a million subscriptions while T-Mobile added 126k.

Applications and Services

After unseating Philippines as the king of TXT messaging last quarter, US TXT messaging continues to grow albeit at a slower pace. Philippines is seeing a sharp decline in per user messaging due to IP messaging. Some of the European operators are also experiencing the pain of declining SMS usage. As expected, this transition will continue around the world at different rates. In the US, while the change is underway, we don’t expect any dramatic declines like the Philippines market in the near-term.

The market is finally starting to see activity in the mobile commerce and payment services as well as in various industry verticals like healthcare, retail, and education.

Q3 2011 again saw tremendous activity in the mobile commerce and payments space with lot of announcements from the operators, Internet players, and startups as well as the retailers and the ecommerce players. All are vying for a piece of the mobile wallet. Much more to come in the next 12 months.


Smartphones continued to be sold at a brisk pace accounting for 57% of the devices sold in Q3 2011. Operators are averaging 70% of their postpaid sales as smartphones with Android dominating though iPhone leads in revenue and mindshare.

Nokia’s position in the market improved slightly with the launch of WP7 devices. While it is fairly clear that Windows will acquire the #3 spot behind iOS and Android, the journey to a substantial and competitive market share is still ways off.

As predicted in the last update, Samsung overtook Apple in smartphone sales and is unlikely to relinquish the title despite a blockbuster iPhone 4S launch in Q4.

37% of all smartphones sold globally in Q3 were sold in the US making it the most attractive market for the OEMs.

Smartphones now account for over 80% revenue of all phones sold in the US.

In the vertical vs. horizontal platform battle, the ecosystem is shifting towards horizontal domination in the near-term (units sold) while a majority of the profits reside in the vertical column.

87% of the tablets use WiFi only (some have inactivated cellular chipset) meaning the operator channel is not a necessary distribution channel. Operators who start to bundle multiple devices by single data plans and data buckets are going to see a better yield in this category. As expected, Verizon announced family data plans for 2012. Other operators will quickly follow or may even preempt Verizon.

Verizon added another 1.4M LTE subscribers making it the leading LTE operator in the world. AT&T’s LTE plans are gathering steam and Sprint plans to offer LTE in 2012.

iPhone finally arrived at Sprint. Sales of iPhone 4S have been brisk which is likely to make it the top selling device for the most important quarter of the year.

Mobile Data Growth

While the spectrum debate rages on, in addition to the network and backhaul upgrades, policy management and data offload have emerged as top two solutions that operators deploying around the world. Signaling management solutions like Diameter routing are also getting good traction. However, a long-term video solution is still elusive. As we have been saying in our Yottabyte series of research papers, a comprehensive solution strategy is needed to effectively manage margins/bit.

We will have the 3rd edition of our “Managing Growth and Profits in the Yottabyte Era” research out early next year.

Global Update

Race to a billion – India’s net-addition rate declined significantly in Q3 2011 while China kept its current pace. We expect that China will be the first country to exceed 1 Billion subscriptions by mid-2012. For India, the event will now occur in 2013.

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