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November 2, 2010

Smartphones Generate Nearly 65 Percent of the World's Mobile Traffic


Informa Telecoms & Media is a group of top-notch analysts and cognoscenti who scrutinze global market data and research to come up with strategic insights that aid in the decision-making activities of their clients. They also hold over 100 conferences annually.

In their latest research missive to the public, Informa has revealed that Smartphone users are generating about two-thirds of total mobile cellular traffic worldwide. (This excludes mobile broadband traffic generated by laptops and other portable devices as well as Wi-Fi traffic offload that make up most mobile phone traffic.) This is the case even though only 13% of mobile subscribers use smartphones. Moreover, as these smartphone users spend more time on the Internet, the traffic that each one generates—their average traffic per user (ATPU)–will increase over the next five years by an astounding 700%.

Informa Telecoms & Media estimate that the ATPU per smartphone currently averages 85MB per month. The iPhone is the highest-traffic-generating device followed by Android devices. Informa believes that the iPhone will remain in the lead position, since Android devices will be spread across all sorts of demographic regions, such as high-, mid- and low-user segments.

The “ATPU metric” is a new one devised by Informa Telecoms & Media to assist the mobile industry in measuring the potential of new services and revenue streams such as mobile advertising. Network operators can also use ATPU as a key differentiating parameter for rating or judging OS platforms' popularity and related technological ecosystems.

“The traffic disparity between smartphone and non-smartphone is most pronounced in North America where 86% of mobile data traffic is currently generated by smartphone users, notably those using an iPhone or high-end Android devices,” notes Malik Kamal-Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. Informa has forecast that the Smartphone ATPU will reach a considerable 776MB/month by 2015.

Rapid growth will also be seen in Western Europe and the smartphone ATPU in that region will increase almost 17 times from 44MB/month in 2009 to over 736MB/month in 2015. These regions' rapid growth will be driven by several things: the fast migration of subscribers to higher-speed mobile networks, the proliferation of flat rate data plans, and the availability of wide range of smartphones targeting different consumer groups with different lifestyles, enabling users to consume only the most relevant content and services.

Interestingly, the highest smartphone ATPU will continue to emanate from South Korea and Japan with values of 271MB/month and 199MB/month, respectively, anticipated in 2010. This is two to three times higher than the global average.

In contrast, smartphones remain a status symbol for the majority of users in emerging markets who still use cellular networks largely for voice and SMS rather than to access mobile data services. As a result, ATPU in these regions is not expected to exceed 43MB/Month in 2010 and could be as low as 13MB/month in some African countries. The low penetration of mobile broadband networks, the lack of compelling local content and the proliferation of prepaid subscribers are among the reasons why smartphone ATPU in emerging markets will lag behind this in developed regions.

There will be also a significant difference in the ATPU associated with the different OS platforms. iPhone will continue to lead the smartphone ATPU thanks to its superior user experience. Also, because the iPhone will continue to target premium users with high ARPUs, it is likely to remain leading the ATPU worldwide with an estimated value of 196MB/month in 2010.

However, Informa maintains that other platforms, in particular the Android and Microsoft Windows Phone, will catch up as the gap in terms of user experience continues to rapidly narrow. Android ATPU is currentIy at 148MB/month and likely to exceed 757MB/month by 2015. Android ATPU seems to be lower than that of the iPhone largely because Android is diluted across all market segments from low- to high-end smartphones. However, ATPU of the iPhone has been already surpassed by ATPU associated with some heavy-weight Android models that have recorded ATPUs exceeding the 200MB/month mark.


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