While the emerging markets will present a key growth driver for the mobile industry, developed markets will continue to push data services into 2013, according to an analyst.
Steven Hartley, Ovum senior analyst, said in a statement: "After years of false starts, 2008 finally saw data services take off."
Revenues from data, which includes messaging, is forecast to grow 79 percent globally over the next five years, with developed markets central to this, accounting for 53 percent of data revenues in 2013, said Hartley.
But operators should focus on providing good access, not content, he said. "Players from the Internet domain will be better placed, so demand from the operator will be for access," he said, but noted that Internet players such as Google and Apple will likely not "destroy" mobile operators, because access revenues will "more than compensate" operators as Internet players dominate the content space.
"Operators will have more to fear from rival operators over the next five years than from external players," he said.
Making new connections
For the overall mobile industry, however, emerging markets present the most opportunity in terms of growing new connections, said Hartley. Ovum predicts 5.63 billion mobile connections will be made in 2013, up 43 percent from 2008. Global penetration is expected to go up from 59 percent in 2008 to 80 percent in 2013.
An indication of the role of emerging markets is that prepaid connections will rise to 73 percent of all connections in 2013, up from 70 percent in 2008. China and India will present a cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12 percent up to 2013, he said.
Because of the increasing emphasis on emerging markets, voice will still remain the top revenue generator "in every region", he said, noting: "Operators must not 'kill the cash cow' and should focus on offering voice services as cost-effectively as possible, while maintaining quality."
As a result of the growing importance of emerging markets, a shift in the global balance of operator power is expected, Hartley further said.
"An increasing share of customers in emerging markets will go to the new, rapidly expanding players such as Zain and Orascom," he said. The two operators cater to Africa and the Middle East.
"The result will be a raft of new, large-scale global players by 2013.
"Today’s European-based giants will face increasingly intense competition from equally large or larger competitors at both global and local levels. Efficiency and maximizing synergies from their scale will be the critical success factor for both the old and new heavyweight," said Hartley.