Today, Vodafone announced first half results. Unsurprisingly, mobile broadband was a key part of their strategy to maintain revenues as mobile voice and sms increasingly head towards becoming free.
They reported very fast mobile broadband growth, built upon aggressive pricing by other operators in European markets. Vodafone — not aiming to be the cheapest priced — reported an 84% increase in mobile PC connectivity devices and reckons about half of those are consumer buys. Given the early stage of the consumer mobile broadband market, that’s an impressive result. Data-related revenues will be harder to secure: they rose by just 27%.
In the UK alone, Vodafone reported >500k mobile PC devices. This would place Vodafone among the leading ISPs if compared with home broadband, and with growth levels that only Sky could approach (but not match).
Note to non-European readers, pricing for mobile broadband is as low as 10ukp for one months’ use on a pre-pay SIM, or 5ukp if an add-on to an existing contract plan. This isn’t in every country, but in some where low prices exist, the market is moving extremely quickly.
There will be much more mobile broadband adoption to come as data spreads into emerging markets. Both Vodafone, and all of the operators I heard speak at last weeks’ FT Telecoms conference, were sure this would happen very soon. Most, thought the opportunity is even greater than in Europe.
Vodafone’s CEO: “In emerging markets: The Internet will be mobile.”
Given the strength of some of the early mobile broadband take-up and of the arrival of numerous laptop-mobile subsidy sale models in retail, I think that’s too narrow a statement, should read:
Ian: “The Internet will be mobile.”
By that I mean that everyone, retailers, PC makers, home broadband providers, website owners, everyone… will have to adjust to the arrival of mobile/cellular in their businesses. Increasing numbers of consumers will go online using laptop PCs on relatively slow mobile broadband connections — including very small netbooks — leading to website design tweaks. Where and when people go online will change. Operators, retailers and device makers will have to embrace mobile industry pricing and packaging with subsidies and tight contract lock-ins. Additionally, and in parallel, phone handset Internet access is on the rise too.
I see any attempt to write about fixed and mobile Internet in isolation, or home broadband and mobile broadband on their own, as doomed to failure. Strategies must embrace both.
There is now one Internet, although with a few different flavours.