The Disconnect Between Subscriber Growth & Revenues in Broadband and Mobile

Subscriber growth for both fixed-line broadband and mobile service providers was “pretty decent” in 2009 even despite the faltering economy, according to TeleGeography Research, which released figures for the year this morning. But revenues failed to match that modest rise.
The Washington-based market research firm said the number of worldwide mobile users increased 15 percent last year, while broadband saw a 14 percent boost. However, the 20 largest service providers registered less than 2 percent growth in aggregated annual revenues, TeleGeography said, “most of which was the result of M&A activity,” and fourth-quarter revenues barely surpassed those of the same period in 2008.
But while fourth-quarter growth of fixed-line broadband was slightly less than anticipated — an indication, perhaps, that the short-term market ceiling “may be a little lower than predicted,” according to TeleGeography — wireless rebounded in the second half of the year after bottoming out in the second quarter. Emerging markets such as India and China accounted for the lion’s share of that growth, while more mature markets in Europe and North America slowed as penetration rates neared the saturation point.
TeleGeography’s figures regarding mobile echo some of the findings on U.S. operators released last week by Chetan Sharma. Both reports indicate there’s still plenty of low-hanging fruit for mobile carriers in emerging markets, but growth is becoming stagnant and ARPU (average revenue per user) is decreasing elsewhere. So operators in more mature markets will have to find ways to better monetize the increasing data traffic on their networks. Which means you’ll be paying more for all that great mobile data you’re using.
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Image courtesy TeleGeography