While mobile operators in developed markets are experiencing a slowdown in data traffic growth, developing markets in Asia helped fuel a 77 per cent increase in data usage globally in Q1.
Growth in data usage has risen over the last four quarters after peaking in 2011 at 120 per cent and falling steadily until a year ago, according to Strategy Analytics.
Three of the five fastest growing mobile operators in the quarter were in Asia — AIS in Thailand (192 per cent), Indonesia’s Indosat (159 per cent) and China Mobile (158 per cent).
Advanced 4G markets in the region, however, reported slowing traffic growth, with Singapore declining to 25 per cent and Hong Kong falling to 34 per cent. These results are in line with the 26 per cent growth in mobile data traffic in the US last year.
Phil Kendall, executive director of wireless operator strategies at Strategy Analytics, attributed the growth in developing countries to emerging 4G opportunities, most notably in China, as well as growth in affordable 3G smartphones.
While 3G and 4G were the main drivers, 2G traffic growth in India remained strong. Idea Cellular, for example, saw 2G usage jump 68 per cent in Q1, accounting for 44 per cent of its total data traffic. Its 3G traffic expanded 135 per cent.
Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, director of wireless operator strategies at Strategy Analytics, noted that the positives in the traffic figures have not translated into faster revenue growth from non-SMS data services for operators, with such data revenue growth falling below 20 per cent globally for the first time.
“With monetisation strategies built on upselling more data, operators will need to work harder to encourage users to consume more chargeable 3G and 4G data on more devices,” she said.
The results are based on Strategy Analytics’ Wireless Operator Performance Benchmarking database, which tracks the financial and operational performance of 247 active wireless operators, which collectively account for 80 per cent of global mobile subscriptions.