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Data: 85% of Mobile Traffic But 39% of Revenue—What Gives?

Data: 85% of Mobile Traffic But 39% of Revenue???What Gives?

A whopping 85 percent of the traffic traversing the four nationwide mobile operators networks is pure data, according to a new study by wireless analyst Chetan Sharma, showing that the U.S. mobile industry long ago abandoned its voice mantle to become a data-driven juggernaut. Or has it? Sharma also found that data accounted for only 39 percent of all mobile data revenue that carriers collected in the fourth quarter. Operators may be running what are primarily data networks, but they are still getting paid mainly for voice minutes.

The detailed report (check out Kevin Tofel’s first pass on Sharma’s numbers in his tablet post) also shows that overall revenue for operators is increasing, driven by data use, which will grow from a $67 billion market in 2011 to an $80 billion one at the end of this year. But the average revenue that carriers collect per customer is declining: For every 52¢ of new data fees operators took in last quarter, they lost 96¢ in voice fees.