Global mobile data traffic jumped 115 per cent year-on-year in Q3 2017, with India and China accounting for half of all traffic growth which hit a six-year high during the quarter.

India’s Reliance Jio carried more data traffic than any mobile operator globally within six months of launching its nationwide 4G network, but its disruptive impact on the market meant profitable traffic growth had been hard to find, Strategy Analytics reported.

Meanwhile unlimited data plans in China have driven accelerated traffic growth, up 166 per cent year-on-year in Q3, and have generated a healthy recovery in both service revenue and EBITDA, the research company said.

In Europe, Vodafone enjoyed healthy early traction for its zero-rated Passes, offering a more segmented and targeted approach to traffic and revenue stimulation. The operator had 8 million customers using Passes by the end of September, with a positive impact on ARPU and usage. It delivered 2.6-times growth in traffic in Europe over the last two years with near flat opex, highlighting the upside to more targeted traffic-stimulation strategies.

Phil Kendall, director of Strategy Analytics’ service provider group, said: “It is encouraging to see more success stories from operators using unlimited or zero-rated pricing to unlock growth in both revenue and profitability. The success of China Unicom’s unlimited plans and collaborations with local Internet giants highlights the importance of partnering with content providers to add value to data plans.”

Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, Strategy Analytics’ director of service provider strategies, noted operators need to evaluate both their market environment and customer segment priorities when contemplating unlimited plan options: “We applaud Vodafone’s strategy to focus on more targeted and segmented market offers in Europe, addressing discrete demand for messaging, music and video services within those segments.”

Average usage per SIM card increased from 0.7GB/month in Q3 2016 to 1.5GB/month in Q3 2017. Non-SMS data services now account for 55 per cent of all mobile service revenue globally.