By Andy Sambidge
Research firm Gartner sees rise of 11% this year; mobile data revenues set to rise 22% to $314bn
Worldwide mobile connections will reach 5.6 billion in 2011, up 11 percent from 5 billion connections in 2010, according to research firm Gartner Inc.
It added that mobile data services revenue will total $314.7bn in 2011, a 22.5 percent increase from 2010 revenue of $257bn.
"Mobile data traffic will increase significantly as more people will have access to mobile data networks, there is a migration toward smartphones and an increase in sales of media tablets," said Jessica Ekholm, principal research analyst at Gartner.
"Mobile data volumes will continue to grow as mobile data networks become faster and more ubiquitous, while at the same time the number of data users and data usage per user is expected to grow," she added.
"Data revenue will continue to grow but at a much slower rate," Ekholm said.
Worldwide mobile connections will experience steady growth through to 2015, Gartner added, when mobile connections are forecast to reach 7.4 billion, and mobile data revenue will reach $552bn.
A growing number of mobile connections will lead to higher demands on communication service providers' (CSPs) data networks as more people access the networks to use mobile data and to send text messages.
Gartner said it also expects mobile data usage per connection will increase throughout the forecast period and that there will be a shift in mobile users' perception of mobile data around the world, as data plans go from being seen as a luxury, to being considered a nice-to-have service, to finally being perceived as potentially essential.
Gartner added that it expects CSPs to increasingly start moving toward offering more flexible and more personalised data plans, which should help capture a larger mobile data user base.
It said carriers should investigate the pros and the cons of more customized pricing plans, such as tiered pricing, a la carte and usage-based plans, carefully weighing additional costs and future benefits.
Additionally, CSPs should look to offer increased flexibility in pricing and introduce add-on pricing models, in which users are able to add data access when they want to.
"Carriers should focus on increasing the level of clarity and the transparency of their mobile data contracts in order to make the majority of customers feel more at ease in using data services. This is particularly important when it comes to data roaming," Ekholm said.