INSIDE WIRELESS: CTIA WIRELESS-Wireless Data Is Finally Big Business

The CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment 2008 trade show was held last week in San Francisco from September 10-12. The CTIA show's focus was on wireless data. Here, J. Gerry Purdy, the Knowledge Center's mobile and wireless analyst, shares his major insights from the show.


It wasn't many years ago that analysts were saying, "Someday, wireless data is going to become successful and, eventually, exceed voice revenues." Well, having just attended the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment trade show in San Francisco, I can say that it looks like wireless data is definitely becoming a successful, multi-billion-dollar industry. And, it represents one of the continued growth industries within recessionary times.

Here's my key prediction: Sometime in the future, although it may be 15-20 years, wireless data revenues will exceed wireless voice revenues. Here's why.

In the following figure, take a look at the number of total subscribers (this includes people owning more than one wireless account). The line, however, shows the decline in growth in the number of new subscribers:


There are approximately 236 million people who represent a total of 275 million subscriptions. The rate of growth has slowed to a trickle, but will continue to grow to be more than 300 million subscribers within five years.

Now, in the figure below, take a look at the mobile service revenues and the portion of the total that is due to wireless data. You can see that the percentage (the thin blue line) is growing. Thus, wireless data revenue is continuing to grow as a percent of total mobile operator revenue. And it will continue to grow from 25 percent in 2013 to eventually be greater than 50 percent in another 10-15 years (if the current growth rates continue).


The CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment show

The focus on the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment show was on wireless data. I spent three days meeting with startups, as well as with large successful companies. They were all focused on building and operating in the wireless data ecosystem. I spent most of my time in "briefing" meetings with vendors. Before the show, the number of requests to meet was far beyond my ability and time. So, I just did my best to prioritize the selection process to include Frost & Sullivan clients, startups that have an exciting new product or service or mid-tier companies that I follow for an update.

To give you an idea of why going to a conference like this is very demanding, here is the list of companies I met with during the three days at the CTIA show: 3jam, Acision, Avot Media, Cascada, CellSpin, CellTrust, Clickatel, ComScore, Droplet, FusionOne, Google/Android, Handmark, iLoop Mobile, Intel, iSkoot, JYGY, LG, LiveWire, Nellymoser, NeuStar, Nokia, Novarra, Nuance, Obopay, Ontela, Opera, Peek, Rosum, SinglePoint, Strata8, SurfKitchen, Tira Wireless, VeriFone, and Visto.

So, if you think it's easy for me to go to trade show, think again. It's demanding, but worth it as I always get new insights that I didn't have before.