The US’ mobile data market had a storming second quarter, with average data consumption in the country on track to cross 6GB per month by the end of 2017, a move which could make it the global leader.

Chetan Sharma Consulting’s latest US Mobile Market update noted it took around 17 years to hit the 1GB mark, but going from 5GB to 6GB a month took just four months.

The US is in third place globally, behind Finland and South Korea, in terms of GB consumed per subscriber per month, and first among countries with a population of more than 60 million.

Given the unlimited availability of data service across all operators, the US could surpass Korea in usage this year, the study observed.

In another milestone, mobile data revenues eclipsed the 80 per cent mark for the first time in Q2 and the US is the first country after Japan where this has happened.

Meanwhile in Q2 operators also “saw a return to positive territory” after the first ever decline in US mobile data services revenue in Q1. This positive development comes despite mobile data pricing dropping by 60 per cent this year.

Overall, the US is number one in total zettabytes consumed on mobile networks ahead of second placed China “by a distance”.

The report noted unlimited “seems have to caught some operators by surprise and unprepared when it was almost a given that this will happen” adding the “pressure to deliver unlimited will remain.”

Earlier this month an OpenSignal report revealed Verizon and AT&T experienced falling network speeds following the launch of their unlimited plans, allowing T-Mobile US to gain further ground on its rivals.

Meanwhile Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure attributed its post pay fiscal Q1 churn to the “hyper-competitive” US market, which saw Verizon and AT&T heavily promote unlimited tariffs, and T-Mobile US chief John Legere say AT&T and Verizon were “choking with their unlimited offerings”.

The Chetan Sharma Consulting report said T-Mobile “cleaned up the clock” on most growth metrics in the most recent quarter, including service revenue, post paid revenue and overall ARPU.

Verizon reintroduced unlimited in February, amid pressure from rivals. During its Q2 analyst call, it said much of the growth in its base, and decline of its churn rate, was due to the popularity of its new plan.

Chetan Sharma Consulting’s report also found net income improved 8 per cent as operators “tightened their belts and lowered their expenditures”, with Sprint seeing the sharpest increase.

Operator M&A
The study noted the wireless ecosystem in the US “has been trying to find the next big merger, but efforts haven’t borne any fruits yet.”

Last week, negotiations on a much-anticipated merger between Sprint and T-Mobile US resumed as Sprint’s largest shareholder, SoftBank, continues to assess its options for the operator’s future.

The report said all operators showed improvement in profitability and, on average, AT&T and Verizon took the bulk of the profits while T-Mobile US and Sprint kept their numbers “in the positive territory”.

Other observations in the report include the fact that US smartphone penetration surpassed 90 per cent, and Verizon continued its steady march on the IoT/telematics front and is expected to become the third global operator to pass the $1 billion mark in the segment in 2018.