Cellular Data Explodes, Even in a Bad Economy

Carl Weinschenk

The old saying is that anything that doesn't kill an entity makes it stronger. Though it seems a bit flippant, that just about sums up how the wireless data service sector weathered the recession, according to numbers from research from analyst Chetan Sharma.


The analyst says that mobile data service revenue reached $10.6 billion during the last quarter. This is the second consecutive quarter in which revenues passed $10 billion, and the total represented a 30 percent increase compared to the year-ago quarter.


There is good news for everyone: AT&T and Verizon Wireless saw their data growth rates expand by more than 8 percent, and T-Mobile clocked in at 6 percent. Sprint Nextel also had a good quarter, though the InformationWeek piece didn't have a precise figure.


The other (and even better) side of the coin is the idea that if mobile data was strong in a poor economy, it stands to truly excel when things improve and folks actually have money to spend. On one level, this Bloomberg piece looks at AT&T's plans to deal with the situation when its exclusive arrangement with Apple for the iPhone expires. On another level, the piece demonstrates how many opportunities there are in mobile data.This paragraph nicely sums things up:

There are as many as 2 million gadgets such as e-books, security devices and utility meters connected to wireless networks in the U.S., said Roger Entner, an analyst at Nielsen Co. in Boston. The market, which generates less than $100 million in annual revenue today, will grow as much as 100 percent a year, he said.

The piece also mentions wireless pet trackers. Those types of devices and services are the tip of a very substantial iceberg of revenue. The transition will be interesting: While voice is more or less saturated-few people who want cell phones simply to talk to other folks don't have them-the imagination of planners is just ramping up. The fruit of that imaginative process is jamming the cyber counters of various app stores.

The explosion of data is driving the 4G networks that are taking root now. This week, Clearwire announced that Huawei is the final vendor to its Clear project, which aims to create a nationwide WiMax network. This GoMo News piece reports on the Huawei announcement, though its greatest strength is explaining the project in simple terms.


While challenges threaten to derail individual wireless carriers, it is doubtless that the overall category is exiting the recession in very good shape. That's exceptional news for these firms-who can look ahead to even better days.

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