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Data traffic outstrips mobile voice calls

25 марта 2010

Data traffic has exceeded the volume of voice calls across the world’s wireless networks for the first time, highlighting the challenge facing mobile phone operators as they struggle to adapt to surging demand for mobile internet services.

The crossover occurred in December when 140,000 terabytes of data content, such as e-mails, music and video, was handled by mobile carriers, surpassing voice traffic, according to measurements by Ericsson, the world’s largest network equipment vendor.

“This is a significant milestone with some 400m mobile broadband subscriptions now generating more data traffic than the voice traffic from the total 4.6bn mobile subscriptions around the world,” said Hans Vestberg, Ericsson chief executive.

Ericsson said global data traffic nearly tripled in each of the past two years and forecast that it would double annually during the next five years as more people sought mobile internet access via laptop computers and smartphones.

Ericsson highlighted social networking websites, such as Facebook, as one of the biggest sources of mobile data.

The rapid shift from voice to data is transforming the telecommunications landscape as operators scramble to maximise revenues from mobile internet services, while trying to stem decline in the voice revenues that still represent the biggest part of their business.

The surge in data traffic is also placing a strain on network capacity in some areas, causing deterioration in service quality as operators struggle to cope with the rising number of bandwidth-hungry mobile internet users.

Ericsson and its competitors, such as Nokia Siemens Networks, Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei, hope the capacity crunch will lead to increased spending on network infrastructure but operators are reluctant to invest until they work out how to squeeze more profit from data.

While mobile internet has provided an important new source of growth, data is yet to fully offset decline in voice revenues, amid fierce competition and pressure from regulators to lower call tariffs.

Operators are looking for ways to extract more value from data but have so far struggled to muscle in on the growing market for mobile internet applications such as music downloads.

Growth in non-SMS data revenue slowed from almost 40 per cent in 2007 to 25 per cent last year, according to Barclays Capital.

“The challenge for the operators moving all this data is that they haven’t yet worked out how to make money from it other than as raw data,” said Nick Jones, analyst at Gartner.

Источник: Financial Times

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