Mobile growth surging worldwide

The mobile telecommunications industry is estimated to have secured revenues of around AU$8.8 billion for 2003-04, according to a report by the Allen Consulting Group.

The mobile telecommunications industry is estimated to have secured revenues of around AU$8.8 billion for 2003-04, according to a report by the Allen Consulting Group.

The report, commissioned by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), said the country's mobile telecommunications industry contributes AU$4.8 billion a year to the local economy.

The figure represents a higher economic contribution to the Australian economy than the free-to-air television services industry or the newspaper, printing and publishing industry.

"Since 1997, capital expenditure on new networks has exceeded AU$8 billion. These investments underpin expansions to mobile network coverage that make mobile services available to more people in more places as well as supporting the development of innovative services," the report said.

"The measures of economic significance of the mobile telecommunications industry identify that the industry has experienced strong growth in its first 10 years. The industry has evolved substantially over this time. The emerging trends suggest that industry development continues to be driven by competition, innovation and a focus on meeting customer needs."

The Industry Gross Product -- a measure of an industry's contribution to the economy -- was AU$4.8 billion in 2002-03, 9 percent higher than the previous year, the report stated.

The Australian mobile telecommunications industry today has an estimated 16 million subscribers in over 70 percent of households. Mobile services are used by nearly 80 percent of the Australian population.

According to the report, it is estimated that ongoing industry specific payments made by the mobile telecommunications industry to government constitutes around 2 percent of revenue per year, or AU$178.2 million, in 2003-04. The industry has contributed almost AU$2.9 billion to government through payments made to access spectrum.

Over 34,500 people worked in the industry in 2002-03, accounting for over one third of the total telecommunications employment. The mobile revenue for the same financial year represented 28 percent of total telecommunications revenue.

Over the period 1997-98 to 2002-03, employment in the mobile telecommunications industry increased by 48 percent, compared to an increase of around 30 percent in the telecommunications industry as a whole.

AMTA chief executive officer, Graham Chalker, said the mobile telephone industry was positioned for a new strong phase of growth with the introduction of 3G mobile technology.

"Peaks in subscriber growth are associated with the introduction of new networks, such as in 1993 when the 2G GSM network was introduced and in 1999 with the CDMA networks. After a period of consolidation, the industry is poised for a new phase in growth over the coming years when the full impact of 3G services on mobile growth rates comes into effect," he said.

The report stated that Australia's mobile penetration rate grew from 64 percent in 2001-02 to 72 percent in 2002-03 and is forecast to be around 80 percent in 2004.

"Although it may seem unlikely, a penetration rate above 100 percent is possible and has been achieved in a number of countries. This comes about when mobile phone customers make use of more than one SIM card and/or mobile phone," the report said.

Chalker believes another factor likely to drive mobile penetration rates over 100 percent is the uptake of mobile technologies by business and government. AMTA also anticipates that quizzes, images, chat, multimedia content, and interactive applications will continue to be taken up by customers during 2004.

Chalker said recent innovations with the convergence of the Internet and mobile communications technologies had opened up a whole "new world of services never before available on mobile phones".

"The content available on 3G services is a key distinguishing feature between second generation and third generation technology. There is strong growth and new employment opportunities emerging from alliances between carriers and content providers for access to the latest services," he said.

Chalker added that they are anticipating to see the full impact of 3G networks on growth rates over the coming years.