In a new report, Wireless network traffic worldwide: forecasts and analysis 2012–2017, Analysys Mason argues that growth in mobile data traffic will not be enough to stop a contraction of the mobile industry in western economies.
"Data revenue growth is already offset by tariff rebalancing, and together with the loss of core voice and messaging revenue to over-the-top players, and some erosion of operators' position in device distribution, this contraction could be severe," it says.
The report's author, Rupert Wood, takes a swipe at competing firms and just about everybody else in the mobile industry saying: "Forecasting mobile data traffic has been bedevilled by analyst excitability, vendor and operator interests, spectrum lobbyists, and wildly mobile-centric views of device ecosystems. Open-loop forecasts with headline-grabbing growth rates simply don't tally with long-term trends in transport costs or any plausible increase in operator revenue."
"Fixed and Wi-Fi can do most of what mobile does (except the wide-area/mobility bit) at a fraction of the price to the end user, but mobile can do only a fraction of what fixed and Wi-Fi can because of its inherently limited capacity."
The report forecasts the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of mobile data traffic will be 40.8 percent for 2012–2017 and just 29 percent in Western Europe, a growth multiple of 3.6 over the five years. "Device saturation, delays in availability of 4G [ie LTE], but above all the greater propensity of consumers to use Wi-Fi are the main barriers to growth in the region," Analysys Mason says.
Asia–Pacific and Latin America will fare rather better with five year growth multiples of 9.1 and 6.8 respectively, but North America will manage only 4.5 according to the report.