US mobile network operators are struggling to keep up with a surge in data traffic, with diminishing returns to show for their efforts, according to Chetan Sharma Consulting.
Mobile data consumption soared 193% in 2009 to nearly 400 petabytes, yet data service revenues grew by just 29% to $44 billion, it says in a new report.
The market is projected to grow by just 20% in 2010 to $54 billion. Data ARPU increased by just 4%, or $0.53, although that came against a $0.98 decline in voice ARPU and a $0.45 decline in blended ARPU.
The research firm predicts the contribution from data to overall revenues will hit 33% by end 2010, up from 29% at end-2009.
Mobile penetration is at 99% in the US for everybody over five years old, Chetan Sharma said, leaving little room for growth in terms of subscribers.
Blogsite GigaOMsaid the slowing subscriber growth rate would force US operators to more effectively monetize data traffic – which is why incumbents AT&T and Verizon are planning to implement metered billing.