Wireless Data Grows Up

By Peter Crocker — September 08, 2008

Enterprise use of wireless data services is clearly entering a new phase of growth. Leveraging expanded coverage, increasingly robust and multifunctional device hardware and a growing ecosystem of content and mobile application vendors, wireless data services are enabling the real-time decision making that offers the scale and flexibility for which end users are clamoring in today's extended enterprise.

VDC's research on enterprise wireless data services reveals some startling findings:

Carrier revenues from enterprise wireless data services are expected to grow by 21% annually through 2013. Moreover, data ARPU has grown from approximately 5% of total ARPU in 2004 to 20% in 2008.

Average monthly usage among enterprises is approximately 44MB per user. However, needs vary widely by user type, level of experience and mobile device. Nearly one third of users exceed 80MB per month.

Mobile devices will support an increasing number of use cases. The average number of wireless applications supported per enterprise user is expected to double from 3.7 today to 7.6 by 2013.

With the number of wireless data users reaching critical mass, this market is evolving from one that is focused on adding subscribers to one that is emphasizing value-added services. Visionary carriers -- fighting their never-ending battles with customer churn and declining voice ARPU -- are embracing these developments and are aligning themselves with a variety of content and application vendors to deliver these services to their client base.

While carriers (reluctantly) continue to evolve more open service models, future success will likely be predicated more on carriers' ability to espouse collaborative business models to drive revenue growth and leverage cost savings.

One of the more significant shifts that carriers have undertaken has been from selling technology and "wireless data" to packaging smart services tailored to an organization's or user's specific needs. One example of this may be the integration of location-based services (LBS) content into existing applications.

Demand for mobile devices with integrated GPS functionality is rampant as organizations look to drive increased efficiencies from their mobile field workers -- especially in light of the recent spike in gas prices. VDC's research suggests that one in five organizations using wireless data services currently leverage LBS content in their wireless applications and an additional 20% are looking to integrate LBS functionality.

While standalone navigation applications with turn-by-turn directions are useful, the integration of location into enterprise applications makes the mobile device much more powerful. Carriers are uniquely positioned to leverage their ecosystems to enable much of this enhanced functionality.

As the carriers target services towards unique user groups or industries, the mobile device vendors are applying a greater degree of specialization to their design strategies. Considering that many mobile devices today are not capable of supporting data applications beyond simple messaging, the development of advanced and specialized devices will be as much a catalyst of next generation wireless data services, ultimately increasing the exposure or value of device vendors in this ecosystem.


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