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Smartphones, tablets pip netbooks as most popular mobile Internet device

Melbourne, 6th April 2011. Tablets and social networking services are key revenue growth opportunities for operators in Asia-Pacific according to Ovum’s latest Mobile Broadband Industry Survey*, conducted jointly with Telecom Asia.

Almost 50% of respondents said that handsets would be the major driver of mobile broadband traffic, while approximately 25% said that tablets would be the main driver of traffic. This is a significant result for tablets as this is the first time that they have been included in the survey. In last year’s survey, the netbooks/laptops category was expected to be the primary driver of  mobile broadband growth. However, in this year’s survey the category fell to third place.

“Operators view tablets as a more natural fit than laptops or netbooks as they have the same lifecycle, operating system and data model as smartphones,” said Nicole McCormick, Senior Analyst at Ovum.

The threat from over-the-top (OTT) players such as Google and Apple was considered to be a “very significant” or “moderate” threat by over 80% respondents.  Approximately 25% believed that OTT players pose a “very significant” threat to mobile operators.
Partnering with content providers was deemed the best way to counter the threat from OTT players by 69% of respondents, with coverage and quality of service (QoS) also considered to be important.  “Common sense has prevailed,” said McCormick. “Rather than take on the OTT players head-on, it makes more sense for operators to partner with them across as many areas of the ecosystem as they possibly can.”

According to respondents, social networking (31%), video (30%), and browsing (17%) will be the applications that drive the majority of traffic growth in 2011. Social networking was included in the survey for the first time this year, and was marginally ahead of mobile video as the leading driver of traffic growth application. Last year, 36% of respondents expected browsing to be the primary driver of traffic growth, which was down from 42% in the 2008–09 survey.

The increasing popularity of mobile social networking services will require operators to re-evaluate their charging models, with a view to monetizing social networking services.  For example, we particularly like the Philippines model of charging a daily rate for unlimited access to social network.  In developed markets, operators could charge a small monthly fee for unlimited access to social networking services, rather than offering these on a free unlimited basis for big- and small-screen users.

Respondents from Indonesia and Malaysia saw social networking as offering the most growth potential, while the developed markets of Australia, Singapore, and Taiwan viewed video as the main driver of traffic growth.

Kugan is the co-founder of MalaysianWireless. He has been observing the mobile industry since 2003. Connect with him on Twitter: @scamboy

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