Data to take over Voice

Interesting piece in the FT today on the future of the mobile network operators and how over the next five years it is expected that data traffic over the airwaves will grow by $500 bn. This will, according to the article, take data traffic in the next year or so over that of voice traffic.

This is a significant milestone as users look to applications for their mobile networks rather than traditional voice. I assume this all started when Apple launched the iPhone and the idea of apps but actually even other industries have been moving towards data applications such as medical or even automotive. Anyone who has recently purchased a new BMW, Audi or Volvo will find the car requires a SIM to get software updates, download satellite maps or even alert monitoring centres when the car has been involved in a crash. For the medical applications there seems to be no limitations but even in the short term being able to put SIMs into hardware for patients being treated at home will ensure cost savings and hopefully a better service for the patient.

But what is surprising is that the big mobile operators seem to have been passed by and won’t take a share in this significant increase in new business. They are stuck in their commoditised market desperately trying to gain market share in a saturated market. Estimations show revenues will grow below inflation over the next ten years if they don’t evolve and take more of an interest in the data actually flowing over their networks. Investors in America for example are already putting value on carriers who have some kind of digital strategy and shunning those that don’t.

With Everything Everywhere getting to market first with their 4G services the race is on in the UK to deploy this new technology, but ironically the money to be made will be on what runs over this new network rather than operating it. I have long been an advocate that either as a business or a home user you will have a Voice over IP solution which you will run over your home or business broadband service but also over your data only mobile tariff. So your phone, and importantly number will go everywhere with you, much like your email does already. It looks like Skype actually might be worth something!


  • I can’t see that article but, going purely on what you’ve said, didn’t this tipping of the scale from voice to data dominance on mobile networks happen already? About two years ago. I recall writing two or three articles on various different studies saying that mobile data had overtaken voice.. cisco might have been one of those to say it.

    • Piers says:

      Apparently not yet – but I believe it was focusing more on the US and Europe economies and as you say it may have already happened in Asia. As you say it is an obvious outcome but I suspect there are still quite a few people out there still using their phones to call with (the travesty of it!) in the same way there are still quite a few people still on dialup services!

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