Over the past two and half years, the 2.5/3G mobile data services market in the US has grown from nothing to a market worth an estimated $1.5 billion by the end of 2006. A new report from Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR) assesses the progress of the major US business services providers — AT&T Wireless, Sprint PCS, and Verizon Wireless — and finds that the market is still anyone’s game.

“Since the 2.5 and 3G market is relatively new in the US, we were not surprised that none of the providers was successful across all of the categories we evaluated,” said Lisa Pierce, vice president at Forrester. “As the market continues to evolve, there is significant opportunity for current leaders to stumble and challengers to move up. Since the field research was completed very recently, it provides excellent snapshots of several providers’ relative strengths and weaknesses prior to recent industry mega-mergers. These mergers create additional opportunities for relative leadership positions to change over the next 12 to 24 months.”

To date, consumers who use mobile data applications and devices to support their personal and professional lives make up the majority of data services users. To succeed in the market, providers should increase their focus on targeting business customers with packaged offers segmented by size and industry. This report focuses on providers’ efforts to achieve this objective.

Using the Forrester Wave™ methodology, Forrester evaluated the resources, policies, and processes that the three major domestic 2.5/3G business services providers have in place to support enterprises, as well as the key vertical industries and functions they value. Broken into three categories, criteria included:

  • Current offering — business application and device support, price, customer care, billing issues, and technical support.
  • Market presence — how well the provider’s infrastructure, including its financial strength, is able to support current requirements.
  • Strategy — commitment to expanding data networks, current and future network/device quality commitments and planned improvements, and advances in supporting a growing array of applications designed specifically for business customer use.

Overall, Forrester found that the leading providers had taken different directions when developing their offerings. While this resulted in some large differences in scores, no one provider had a decisive overall advantage. However, there are substantial differences in scores along a number of criteria, including coverage, vertical industry support, partnerships with SIs and outside developers, business customer care, range and number of devices targeted for use by business customers, and network management. These are all critical factors affecting overall customer satisfaction.

  • AT&T Wireless. While it is the overall front-runner across all three categories, ironically, this provider has experienced the greatest difficulties during the past two years.
  • Sprint PCS. The first nationwide 2.5/3G provider finishes in third place despite a robust consumer and business customer base.
  • Verizon Wireless. Scoring second on many criteria, this provider has the greatest chance to move up.

This report, “US 2.5 And 3G Business Services,” presents further analysis on the strengths, weaknesses and prognosis for each of the providers. This report and “Market Overview Fourth Quarter 2003: US 2.5G Mobile Services” are available to WholeView 2™ clients and can be found at www.forrester.com.

The Forrester Wave™ Methodology
The Forrester Wave methodology is open, rigorous, and unbiased. Forrester starts with an open criteria review process, verifies findings against customer interviews, and checks facts with vendors. This research is performed without sponsorship to help user companies make better vendor selections. Forrester does not charge vendors in any way to participate in a Forrester Wave.