I have been working with a new regional telecom client and some of the latest industry data are fascinating.

U.S. wireless revenue is up 7.6 percent for the year led by data messaging.  It isn’t news that the wireless industry has been growing or that data has been off-setting a slowdown in voice. What is striking is that data’s contribution to growth has been accelerating through the recession, while the voice slowdown has been steepening.

This has surprised some analysts who expected people to tighten their budgets on “discretionary” data services such as text messaging while holding on to a core service such as phone voice services.  But the opposite has happened. What’s going on here?

  1. Rapid technological advancements (better devices, applicatiions and networks) are powerful drivers of growth. Growth would be even stronger without the recession.
  2.  To some degree, data messaging is substituting for voice services.
  3. Voice markets are maturing.
  4. Alternatives like Skype has some impact on voice
  5. Price competition has been severe for voice while high-end data services are still commanding a premium price.

By the way this is a U.S. trend only.  Data show messaging growth much slower in Europe, Latin America and developing countries, while voice is still growing in places such as Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

If you make the leap (and I think you can) that trends in wireless data growth would also correspond to growth in social media usage, this is how the world stacks up, by approximate two-year data usage growth trends:

  • U.S.              12.7%
  • Asia-Pacific        10.2%
  • Latin America         8.2%
  • Emerging Europe     8.7%
  • Emerging Asia     7.9%
  • Developed Europe    5.1%

Why is Europe lagging so significantly in wireless data usage?  Wouldn’t you think the same trends would apply? Any opinions?

*Illustration: Bank of America Securities-Merrill Lynch Global Wireless Matrix database
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