Mobile social networking is becoming a key driver of mobile data revenue in several fast-growing but low-ARPU markets in Asia Pacific, according to new research from Wireless Intelligence.
The increasing use of social networking mobile apps in markets like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and China is enabling local operators to target price-sensitive, prepaid consumer segments with mobile data services.
At Indonesia's XL (Axiata), for example, revenue from data and value-added services grew by 44% year-on-year and contributed 16% to total revenue in the opening quarter of the year. This was mainly driven by the increasing popularity of RSS news feed and applications such as Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging. XL launched its prepaid micro-SIM card for smartphones and tablets to accommodate increasing demand from prepaid users for these devices.
Similarly, Thailand's AIS reported that the growth drivers behind mobile data usage included the increasing adoption of smartphones and dongles ("aircards"), as well as the growing trend of social networking and the operator's device-data bundling package. AIS is offering a wide portfolio of aircards with speed-based pricing (3.6 Mbps and 7.2 Mbps download speeds) for both Edge and 3G networks.
Also, AIS launched its Google Chrome-branded aircard in the first quarter - a dongle preloaded with the Google Chrome browser and an application to check remaining airtime and price plan changes. AIS is developing a number of applications to encourage consumers to stay online longer, including location-based promotional services and deals via a GPS-enabled aircard that can connect to a network of 5,000 local partners.
AIS has reportedly 7.5 million active data customers, 86% of which are on feature phones, 10% on smartphones and 4% on dongles. Its Wi-Fi facility supports network capacity as it expands from 15,000 hotspots to 50,000 by year-end.
Malaysia's Celcom (Axiata) launched its home-grown social network Kolony, which has already attracted 1.8 million users less than three months after launch. This helped Celcom generate a 20% year-on-year rise in data revenue in the first quarter. Data now contributes 36% of total revenue, up from 30% a year ago. Data revenue, excluding SMS, increased by 37% over the same period.