US mobile growth to slow?

With nearly 61% market penetration, it is only a matter of time before the hyper-growth in the US wireless market will start to trend towards tepid. I had pointed this out earlier in the week, speculating that now the carriers will cut back on discount plans and focus more on becoming profitable. New data released by Jupiter Research, confirms my theory to some extent. The new report says that the total US mobile subscribers will steadily increase from 172 million in 2004 to 212 million in 2009, representing 69 percent of the US population, up from 59 percent in 2004. I think it is time to stop thinking of US as a wireless backwater. 69% of total US population is on an even footing with Europe, at the very least.

Instead the focus will be on selling these consumers more value added services and content. For instance, the music/voice ring tones will drive the majority of near-term growth. The sales are expected to increase from mere 6.1 million downloads in 2004 to 268.3 million — or 82 percent of the total market – in 2009. Total revenue in this market will reach $724 million in 2009. Mobile games are one of the fastest growing data categories for carriers. Mobile games will contribute $430 million in revenue to carriers in 2009 — up from $72 million in 2004. Another notable factoid from this research: continued and growing popularity of SMS.

US wireless consumers sent 22.8 million( could it be billion?) SMS text messages in 2004, dwarfing MMS messaging. SMS will continue to outpace MMS messaging through 2009 due to limited consumer adoption, fewer messages sent overall, and lack of carrier interoperability, Jupiter says. By 2009, US mobile handset users will generate 49.8 billion SMS messages and 4.4 billion MMS messages, resulting in $5.3 billion in carrier revenue — by far their largest source of non-voice revenue. Sometimes, its the little things, the simple things. So carriers, while you are trying to put a noose around the phone, it might be time to learn from SMS. It worked because everyone can send these tiny text ditties to everyone. It worked because the standards were open. So if some of us want iTunes phones, let us buy one.