Wireless Industry Growth Depends on Rich Data Services

At the CTIA Wireless show, Qualcomm's Paul Jacobs stresses the importance of data services to wireless carriers' bottom line.

SAN FRANCISCO—The sale of data services is going to drive the growth and profitability of the wireless telecommunications industry as voice services continue to come under increasing price pressure, said Paul Jacobs, president of Qualcomm Corp.s wireless and Internet Group.

"Our industry is going through a fundamental change" because it is moving from selling voice service that has been commoditized to selling data services that provide added value and differentiation to operators offerings, Jacobs said in his CTIA Wireless show keynote here on Tuesday.


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"This change is rippling all through the industry" and will continue to gather momentum, he said. Wireless carriers are adding as many new services as they can, including ring tones, games, e-mail and instant "press to call" services, he noted.

Many wireless phone operators, especially those in Asia, are making plenty of money, but data services is what is going to keep them going, Jacobs said. "Voice is still a very important service, but data is going to be the thing that drives an operators service … at a time when voice revenues are under pressure, he said.

Jacobs predicted that data services will generate as much as 25 percent of wireless operators revenues by 2008.

The challenge for Qualcomm will be to continue to develop the handset technology to support ever more sophisticated functions because the future drivers of handset sales growth are going to be 3-D gaming and multimedia. The wireless handset, next to the television and the PC, will be the "third screen" that you can always take with you, Jacobs said.

As the capabilities of these phones continue to increase, it will eventually be "game over" for the dedicated handheld gaming devices "because handheld phones are going to serve the market in a way that gaming devices dont," Jacobs predicted.

Handsets will also have to be designed to allow users to channel surf because "this is how they consume video—they sit in front of the TV and surf through channels," he said.

But phone designers will also have to improve video quality to encourage this level of use, as well as providing timely alerts "to let you know that something of great interest is happening in the world around you," he said.

"Cost per bit is a key business constraint," Jacobs said. The industry will have to "drive down the cost of getting multimedia to the handset at a price point that we think consumers are going to be willing to adopt," Jacobs said.

"You cant give people a service where as they are watching more, you are charging them more money," he said. That will only stifle growth.

Next page: Wireless games BREW-ing.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s eWEEK.com since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...