Surge in High-Tech Devices and Services a Double-Edged Sword for Carriers

iappsU.S. mobile data revenues surpassed $19.4 billion in the first half of 2009, a 31 percent increase over the year-ago period, and data accounted for more than 25 percent of all wireless service revenues, according to the CTIA’s semi-annual industry survey. The report, which was released in conjunction with the kickoff of the International CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference today in San Diego, also noted that text messaging continues to gain traction at a breakneck pace, with Americans sending 4.1 billion messages a day from their phones — nearly doubling SMS activity from the first half of 2008.

CTIA also said there are more than 40 million smartphones and connected PDAs in the hands of American users and more than 10 million laptops, netbooks and aircards. But it’s that uptake of high-end devices and the services they support that should be receiving the lion’s share of the industry’s attention. For as AT&T has learned the hard way, a surge in usage can highlight network shortcomings and infuriate users. Text messages are a great way to boost mobile data revenues without taxing networks, but the new wave of mobile devices encourage consumption of video, location-enabled services and other offerings. If carriers are going to push them, they had better make sure they can handle them.