Twice a year, Sandvine publishes our Global Internet Phenomena Report, which provides network operators, as well as subscribers, an in-depth analysis of what is happening on both fixed and mobile networks across the globe.
The research we conduct for the study gives a great snapshot of what is currently happening on broadband networks, but we thought it might be fun to take some of that insight and mix it with what we have been hearing from network operators, to make some predictions for 2012.
So without further ado, here are Sandvine’s five broad(band) projections for 2012:
Data pooling plans will become popular
One of the biggest obstacles preventing subscribers from purchasing their first smartphone, are the additional costs associated with a data plan. In a household with a couple teenagers, it might not be out of the ordinary to have four active mobile phone lines. If everyone in those plans had a full data plan as they are traditionally billed, the data charge alone for that household could easily be in excess of $100 a month.
In order to make data plans more accessible, we expect to see more mobile carriers begin to offer subscribers pools of data in 2012, much like they do with voice minutes. This will allow families with multiple smartphones, or individuals with both a smartphone and tablet, the ability to use their devices in a more affordable way.
95% of tablet traffic will be on fixed access networks
In our Fall 2011 Global Internet Phenomena Report we revealed that more Real-Time Entertainment traffic in the U.S. now goes to devices other than a PC, with the growth in tablet ownership playing a large factor in that shift.
While many tablets have built-in mobile network connectivity, we think the majority of tablet owners are using them as laptop replacements within their home. Amazon’s recently launched Kindle Fires seems to support this thesis, as they chose to launch as a Wi-Fi only device.
While there certainly will be a number subscribers who will choose to subscribe to a mobile data plan for their tablet (especially if they have a pooled data plan option) the amount of traffic those users will generate will be a fraction of what users consuming Real-Time Entertainment on a fixed-access network will use.
The potential bill shock wave will continue
With more and more fixed and mobile providers putting an end to unlimited data plans, and moving towards usage-based billing models, many more users could experience bill shock when getting their monthly invoice.
Almost, everyone has heard a story about someone who used their smartphone’s data while roaming on an international and rung up a bill in the hundred or even thousands of dollars.
As roaming rates are typically higher, subscribers still need to keep a keen eye on their usage, and network operators must ensure they follow best practices for implementing usage-based billing.
Revenue replacement apps will take a bigger bite out of operator revenue
In our Fall 2011 Global Internet Phenomena Report we discovered that in the Asia-Pacific region up to 8% of subscribers were using WhatsApp, a smartphone app that lets people use their data plan instead of SMS messages to each other.
This year also saw reports of SMS growth beginning to level off, which we believe is in part due to the growth in popularity of these data messaging services such as WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messenger, or Apple’s iMessage.
In 2012, as more users get their first smartphones, the usage rates of this category of apps is likely to see massive growth. For mobile network operators, this means potential significant lost SMS revenue, an impact some have already begun to notice.
Live video will explode
Real-Time Entertainment is regularly one of the largest drivers of traffic on both fixed and mobile networks in many regions across the globe. In 2012 we will see Communications Service Providers (CSPs) and content providers expand from offering primarily pre-recorded content to offer significantly more live video options to subscribers.
As further proof of the inevitable explosion of live video, one only needs to look at the recent agreement between Bell and Rogers, the two largest CSPs in Canada to jointly purchase controlling interest in MLSE, the corporation that own several pro sports teams including the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.
When the CEO of Bell was asked about the reason for the purchase with their main competitor, George Cope said “It will deliver the best content to every screen…We believe that increasingly live content is going to be more and more important in the technology world and there is no better live content than professional sports.”
With almost all professional sports leagues, and many news agencies such as CNN and Bloomberg offering live streams of their content in 2011, 2012 is only going to bring more channels to your smartphone, tablet, connected TV, or game console and network operators will need to prepared to provide a high quality of experience as traffic optimization options such as caching are limited for live video.
Based on these predictions, it looks like 2012 will no doubt be an exciting year for the broadband industry. We look forward to keeping you posted on the latest trends in the New Year.