The overall market for global wireless services, according to recent reports from ABI Research (News - Alert), is expected to grow, but at a rate that will steadily diminish from 2012 until 2018. While much of the world right now in 2012 doesn't actually own a cell phone – let alone a full-on smartphone – by 2018, that's likely to change. So thus, ABI Research's reports suggest that the location of the mobile network operator (MNO) in question is likely to determine whether they will sink or swim in the days to come.
But even with these changes afoot, opportunities are likely to follow. While revenue opportunities in older services such as voice and text messaging, for example, is on a declining path, newer services like mobile data, and its attendant mobile VoIP service, are clearly on an ascending path. The ABI Research reports further say that there won't be any shortage of takers for mobile data services, with the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for mobile data to jump 8.2 percent over the life of the forecast.
The report also indicated key differences in regions. The CAGR in Western Europe, for example, is likely to continue to drop – it's actually been on a decline since 2008 and is likely to carry on for the rest of the forecast, giving rise to the projection of a "lost decade" – while at the same time, the CAGR in Africa is likely to climb to 4.3 percent, which will actually beat the worldwide average.
While average revenue per user is down, the growth in cellular subscriptions overall is expected to actually beat the decline, meaning that the market will add so many users that the declines won't be noticed. Essentially, there are so many people right now that don't have phones or tablets that the expansion of those markets should make up for the lack of growth in the markets that are already heavily saturated.
That isn't necessarily a bad sign – no market grows forever – but it does suggest that something needs to happen to keep those customers interested and buying lest they, and the opportunities they represent, be lost.
The economy as a whole is still in a bad place right now. There are still growth sectors, of course, but there are on average a lot fewer of them than in better times. Taking advantage of emerging markets is a smart course of action, but 2018 is nearer than a lot of people like to imagine. In just a few days, it will be only five years out, and when the long-term health of an organization is considered, going out five years is often considered just a good start.
Keeping interested customers in and buying is the only real way toward long-term health as far as an industry goes, and MNOs are no exception. What can be done about this is quite unclear, but hopefully, solutions can be found...and quickly.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo