An Illustration of Scale Benefits in Mobile
|U.S. Mobile Capex, Compared to Revenue source: TMF Associates|
Historically, North American mobile operators have invested twice as much capital per subscription as their global counterparts, according to analysts at ABI Research.
For 2015, ABI Research forecasts North America capital investment per subscription to be US$63. In comparison, Western European operators will invest US$34.
On the other hand, an argument can be made that U.S. mobile capex actually has been declining, on a per-account basis, for quite some time.
“In absolute terms, network investment has fallen quite sharply since 2004, and only rebounded partially in 2010 and 2011,” according to TMF Associates. “As a percentage of revenues, capex has fallen even further, and has roughly halved in the last decade.”
North American mobile operators invest 39 percent of capital on radio access networks. About 26 percent is targeted at in-building access.
ABI Research predicts North American and global mobile capital investment per subscription will decline, however, after a peak at US$224 billion in 2017.
The perhaps-key implication is that capital investment, as a percentage of revenue, is dropping, likely representing better efficiency because of scale.