2013: The year mobile data stops being profitable

The cost of delivering a gigabyte of data will surpass the cost carriers receive for said gigabyte some time in early 2013, according telecommunications gear vendor Tellabs (s tlab). The chart below, which is one of many awesome data points in a paper advocating more lenient spectrum policy, shows how the 2010 revenue a carrier received from delivering a gigabyte was nearly $25, and will drop to about $5 by 2015.

This might be cause for joy for consumers, if the same chart didn’t show the cost of delivering a gigabyte falling from around $20 to about $7 or $8 in that same time frame. That falloff will put carriers in the red, and explains their insistence that the demand for mobile data will bankrupt them without new pricing models. Of course, Tellabs has a stake in carriers making bank, since it sells them gear.

The paper, by economist Thomas Hazlatt, a professor at George Mason University and managing partner at Arlington Economics LLC, argues that making spectrum easier for operators to come will help them meet demand for mobile services. It also says that looser spectrum policy could enable new businesses to form and use the spectrum for alternative mobile services. The paper is worth reading for those interested in spectrum policy. As for the rest of y’all, the chart above sums up what most people will need to know.