Mobile data services are expected to surpass mobile voice revenue for mobile operators in 2017, according to International Data Corporation (IDC) Mobile Service Tracker 2H 2013.
Despite the penetration rate of Malaysian mobile users exceeding 140% and high prepaid-postpaid ratio, mobile operators have still been able to maintain their revenue growth.
Total revenue has grown by 35% in the last three years, and IDC expects the revenue to continue to grow to RM27.6bil in 2018 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 2.6%.
"Mobile data revenue will continue to grow strongly at CAGR of 8.5% and become the main driver of the total mobile revenue in the next five years,” says IDC Malaysia telecommunications research manager Alfie Amir.
“Mobile operators need to be proactive to market trends by using emerging technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Social and Cloud, in order to continue to grow and stay competitive.
Mobile operators may also need to revisit their spectrum strategy in order to maximise network capacity and enhance user experience," adds Amir.
IDC has identified three key areas that will drive mobile data revenue in the next five years:
Mobile data users – Will grow at a strong CAGR of 11%, from only 57% out of total mobile subscribers in 2013 to 89% in 2018. The growth is mainly driven by the increase of low-tier smart devices and affordability of data packages.
Media content – In line with the increase in device capabilities, media content is getting richer and larger in terms of bandwidth. More media content will be shared and downloaded due to the increase of Over-The-Top Players (OTTP) (such as WhatsApp and Skype) and social media.
This will drive data demand hence higher data packages will be required. OTTP has been a major challenge for mobile operators as it is competing with mobile operators' traditional services and turning the network into dumb pipes. However there are cases where mobile operators could consider revenue-sharing partnerships with OTTP.
4G LTE – Four operators have launched Long Term Evolution (LTE) services as natural upgrades to their existing data packages without any premium charges.
LTE subscribers have higher average revenue per user (ARPU) than 3G subscribers due to the higher data usage. This has been shown in countries with developed market such as Japan and South Korea.
IDC predicts LTE subscribers in Malaysia to grow solidly from 265,000 in 2013 to 7.6 million in 2018.
In countries with mature markets such as Australia and South Korea, mobile data revenue has surpassed mobile voice and became the main driver of the total revenue.
In Malaysia, although mobile data revenue is growing steadily, mobile voice still accounts to 60% of total revenue. IDC predicts mobile data revenue in Malaysia is expected to surpass mobile voice in 2017.