What Follows Momentous First Decade of 21st Century?

Without question, the first decade of the 21st century has been momentous, in terms of the broader telecommunications industry, and especially in terms of use of mobile services. Usage in the U.S. market, for example, grew from about 38 percent of the population to 93 percent.

And though consumers had started using text messaging at the beginning of that decade, use of mobile Internet access services was nil. So, on three scores, use of mobility changed drastically.

For starters, mobile usage became virtually ubiquitous. That had obvious impact on demand for alternative ways of making phone calls. 

But text messaging, which almost nobody did in 2000, became a normal method of communications, again displacing a significant amount of voice activity. 

And only quite recently have users begun to use their mobiles as an Internet access method. 

That stunning change in consumer behavior also happened elsewhere around the world. From about 15 percent global penetration, adoption of wireless had surpassed 86 percent by 2011, worldwide. 

But such growth rates come at a "price," namely that once markets become saturate, service providers have to look elsewhere for a second act. And that largely is the main story in telecommunications in the second decade of the 21st century. 

Consider growth rates for fixed network broadband, which had a global growth rate of about 75 percent from 2001 to 2002. Growth began to slow in each succeeding year, dropping to about 10 percent annual growth rates between 2010 and 2011.

Fixed network voice lines, which had been growing at very low, single digit rates, went negative, globally, between 2006 and 2007. 

Use of mobile broadband, which had been negligible through 2006, suddenly exploded in 2007, and currently represent the growth driver for the entire global communications business, with rates of change in the 40 percent range, for 2010 to 2011. 

But you know what comes next. Mobile broadband, in turn, will reach saturation, probably settling into an intermediate growth rate of perhaps 10 percent a year. 

Nobody knows what will come next, which is one reason why service providers are placing lots of bets in a lots of areas. The next big thing after mobile broadband is not yet "discovered."

Oddly enough, because of such huge success in the first decade of the 21st century, the second decade will likely to be a time when global communications revenue growth could slow, dramatically, unless huge new replacement revenue streams are discovered. 

In fact, on a global basis, mobile subscription growth rates seem to have peaked between 2005 and 2007. 

Decade in Wireless

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