The move to data services is massive in Sweden. Out of 7M internet access subscriptions, 4.2M are various form of mobile data subscriptions, with almost 2M new mobile subscriptions only in the last 12 months (PTS report on the Swedish Telecom market 2010-11). 45% of consumers that recently have changed their mobile subscription state the reason to be access to web and data services – previously the main reason for the consumer to switch was to lower their cost for phone/SMS services. Providing high-quality mobile data service has so far been relatively easy for operators that already have invested heavily to reach 3G coverage targets in 2001-2007. Now, for the first time capacity issues and consumer complaints are surfacing. LTE build-out is in rapid progress but LTE handsets are still not around in quantities to significantly improve the situation.
In a recent consumer behavior study (unfortunately in Swedish) conducted by the Swedish Regulator PTS, 20% of all users between 16-75 years of age, and more than 50% of smartphone users have tried internet telephony (i..e. Voice over IP services). This means that the downward pressure on mobile telephony prices is mounting. We have seen this trend coming for a while. To the current operators that still make 80% of their money from mobile phone and SMS services, while 80% of their cost is in mobile data/broadband service this is no doubt a menace to be reckoned with. As the proliferation smartphones progresses, the options for “free” voice and messaging are numerous. Even the infamous operator ownership of the address book with all you phone numbers that tied you to classic voice services is eroding – the SIM card contents of the smartphone users is moving into the cloud and there is no real problem to add additional addresses and identifiers for different services.