Inside telecommunications: 3Q 2012 trends

New opportunities for the mobile industry

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The mobile revolution is occurring at nearly the same rate all over the world. However, a global market does not mean the end of local opportunities.

Those days of endless SMS messages shooting back and forth are rapidly coming to an end.

The mobile maze, our recent study based on a survey of 6,000 consumers in 12 countries, found that although smartphone usage is climbing, market-specific opportunities abound and operators could do more to promote data services.

In 11 of the 12 countries surveyed, at least 40% of the population regularly uses mobile phones for web browsing, including major emerging markets such as China, India and Indonesia. The exception, Brazil, sees regular mobile web browsing by only 12% of its population.

Neither network usage nor network capacity explains the low uptake in Brazil. The difference may be that many Chinese and Indian consumers own inexpensive domestically manufactured smartphones whereas Brazilians do not have an equivalent.

China also sees heavy use of OTT instant messaging, with 73% of respondents regularly using instant messaging services. This is largely because unlike operator-delivered SMS, instant messaging via an instant messaging application is generally free.


It is possible that services such as WhatsApp will become more popular. In future, customers will generally prefer an extended text chat to be routed through an OTT instant messaging service, because it will be much cheaper than conventional SMS.

However, a short message is perceived to have more security and less latency and may be preferred for one-time, priority messaging.

China tunes in

In most of the Western world, Apple is a massive driver of music services. In China and India, however, the number of consumers using local music services and operator app stores is rapidly increasing.

These play localized content Chinese and Indian consumers cannot necessarily find on the iTunes store.

Prepaid breaks out

A significant finding of the study was that the industry’s long-standing aversion to prepaid customers is no longer justified in the smartphone era.

Customers are choosing prepayment as a way to monitor their data expenses. Worldwide, there is only a minor difference between the amount of money spent by prepaid versus postpaid customers.

Such realignment is good news for operators. By getting paid up front, many back office operations, including billing and collection management, are avoided.

City versus country

Surprisingly, the survey found that although 21–34-year-old urban smartphone users in the US used their phones more than rural users of the same age, they actually paid less for the service.

The data suggests the current model of the US market is out of sync with the reality of how American consumers are using their smartphones. A more detailed segmentation of the mobile user base is needed.

Read the full report here.

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