AT&T Fall Out: The Mobile Data Tsunami In Numbers

Nielsen’s Roger Entner provides some numbers about mobile data usage that may be fueling the discussion about how much data we actually consume on our mobile devices and if tiered smartphone service plans make sense.

AT&T has caused quite a stir when it dropped its mobile all-you-can-eat data plan. Some analysts said that the majority of consumers would now be paying less, making smartphones much more affordable than they are today. But there were also those who said that AT&T was simply protecting itself from high data usage and was trying to find a way to profit from those who download gigabytes of data every month.

Nielsen examines 60,000 phone bills every month and has come up with interesting results. 6% of the 80 million smartphone users in the U.S. consume half of all data. 99% of smartphone users are better off with AT&T’s new tiered pricing plan. One-third of smartphone users consume less than 1 MB of data per month. A quarter uses zero data every month. More than a third of smartphone users have not signed up for a data plan.

imgresYet it seems that mobile data is on a steep growth pace. Between January 2009 and January 2010, the average data usage increased from an average of about 90 MB per month to 298 MB. It appears to be very clear that data is the future and the area of opportunity and revenue growth for carriers. “As this trend continues, voice calls are increasingly commoditized and the average revenue per user on voice has been falling,” Entner wrote. “Operators with the right cost structure will still be able to operate efficiently, effectively and profitably in this increasingly challenging voice segment, but most operators are condemned to sink or swim in the new data-centric world.”

Gartner weighed in and gave us a new forecast on data usage: By 2014, Gartner said, 1 billion people will be using mobile email globally. Worldwide business wireless e-mail accounts were estimated at more than 80 million in early 2010, including large, midsize and small organizations, as well as individual professionals — corresponding to about 60 million active users.

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