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Mobile Wireless Competition Report

June 10th, 2010 by Ruth Milkman - Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

On May 20th, the Commission released its Mobile Wireless Competition Report, the 14th in a series of annual reports to Congress, which reviews the state of competition in the wireless industry. 

This year’s report expands our analysis of what is traditionally called “Commercial Mobile Radio Service” into a larger understanding of competition across the full mobile wireless “ecosystem”, including voice, messaging, and broadband services, as well as “upstream” segments (e.g., towers, spectrum, backhaul) and “downstream” segments (e.g., devices and applications).  The broad perspective of the report reflects the increasing importance of mobile wireless broadband, as mobile devices that can access the Internet – such as smartphones – are gaining enormous popularity. 

One of the main goals of the FCC staff in preparing this year’s report was to bring as many relevant facts to the table as possible.  In many cases, we’ve looked at trends from two or three different angles to reveal a fuller picture of how wireless marketplace is evolving.  And, for the first time, we are making much of the data in the report available in machine-readable format for researchers and data practitioners. (Some data used in the report is from proprietary sources such as financial analysts which the Commission does not have the permission to re-distribute in machine-readable form.)

One example of an industry trend examined in the report from multiple data points is the growth of mobile data traffic, arising due to the increased adoption of smartphones and data consumption on new mobile devices that access the Internet.  For instance, Cisco estimates that global mobile data traffic grew 157 percent from 33 terabytes in 2008 to 85 terabytes in 2009.  The chart below, from independent industry analyst Validas, shows how greater device functionality leads to greater mobile data utilization.

Estimated Mobile Data Usage by Type of Device


And Morgan Stanley data clearly shows that smartphones are becoming a more significant element of the wireless market. 

Smartphone Adoption Rates in the United States 2008-2009

In addition, industry revenue from data services is growing, as the below FCC analysis of industry data shows (available in our release of data).

Total Mobile Wireless Industry Revenues

The wireless industry is evolving, and our approach to this annual report has evolved in kind to provide a more complete picture of wireless competition.  We hope this data-driven approach will prove to be a useful resource for consumers, analysts, and policy makers. 

We’re interested in your feedback – what does this data say to you?

3 Responses to “Mobile Wireless Competition Report”

  1. JD Lien says:

    I'd say these trends just corroborate common industry knowledge - that people are utilizing mobile computing platforms and mobile browsing much more these days. It's not at all surprising when you see devices like the iPhone getting so much publicity and market share. Mobile browsing, of course, is possible on almost any phone, and not just smart phones with mobile browsers like Opera Mini ( http://www.opera.com/mobile/ )

  2. Guest says:

    this post and the data in it basically say to me that the FCC is captured by lobbyists and industry interests, and does not have the capability or willingness to do independent analysis critical for policy making. Cisco's estimates of data traffic are clearly marketing material for selling routers and switches. You should know better, or care more.

    The amateurish implication from the cisco chart (that every, most or many consumers will use over 1000 MBs per month) is exactly what they want everyone to believe. That the Nation's expert agency uses third party data is perfectly fine. That it does not offer independent analyses and view of these issues critical for policy making, backed by its own data, is a tragedy that reflects the worse about incompetent, inefficient and politicized government.

  3. Lefty says:

    Dear Guest, (September 08 2010 at 12:36 AM)

    I am not in any way related to the FCC and there are an awful lot among their decisions and conduct that I do not agree with. BUT... The data is available for you and for me to download, if you do not agree with their analyses, or have a dispute, of want your own analysis to be published, you are free to do so.

    Isn't it what this whole commenting thing is all about? Air your anger and frustration in a constructive manner. They are just like you and me, trying to make the most and best of what they've got. The good thing about facts is that they are hard to argue, so if you have nothing against the third party data, you really should share your insights about the telecom industry and mobile telephony with us.

    Dear Ruth,

    I guess one of the most important things to note is the shift in the ratio of the various revenue channels. That voice in no longer king is a serious understatement. The ratio of voice vs data revenue has shifted from 21:1 to 3.7:1. What this means and what its reasons are definitely subject to interpretation, but its implications are serious because the economy needs to be prepared to move away from monolithic voice services, and be prepared to enter the lot more fragmented area of data services. My company has been developing <a href="http://www.synchronica.com/">mobile VAS solutions</a> and we are seeing exactly the same all over the world. It is not only US, but much less developed regions are also hungry for data. While you cannot really be a telco without providing calls, if you only provide calls, you're not gonna be around for long. People want news, sports, TV, music, medical advice and whoknowswhat on their cell phones. And this is the area where there is room for growth.

    Best regards,

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