Operator Investment in 4G Networks Driving Huge Data Growth Across Region with High Smartphone Usage; Mobile Industry Contributing Significantly to Regional Economy.
North America is leading in the adoption of new mobile technologies such as 4G networks, the Internet of Things (IoT) and digital commerce, as well as innovations in operating systems and apps, according to a new GSMA study published today at the GSMA Mobile 360 Series – North America conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
The report, ‘The Mobile Economy – North America 2015’, highlights that the region has been an early adopter of 4G networks, which are driving considerable growth in mobile data traffic. 4G is forecast to account for more than 80 per cent of total connections by 2020¹. North America is home to more than 250 million unique subscribers, equivalent to a unique subscriber penetration rate of 70 per cent and 360 million mobile connections (excluding M2M), with three-quarters of connections being smartphones.²
“The North American mobile industry has been the strongest performing of any developed region globally for some time, characterised by substantial subscriber growth, the early adoption of new technologies, high levels of mobile usage and strong revenue trends,” said Michael O’Hara, Chief Marketing Officer, GSMA. “The region continues to lead innovation in a number of areas in the mobile ecosystem, including hardware, access technologies, operating systems and new apps and services that are scaling rapidly and changing how individuals live and work.”
Increasing Data Usage Driven by 4G Adoption
North America’s mobile operators have invested heavily in 4G networks, resulting in rapid deployment and high uptake with 98 per cent population coverage in the United States and 92 per cent coverage in Canada. Operators in both markets are already in the process of launching LTE-A (Advanced), which offers even faster speeds for users in addition to voice over LTE (VoLTE) services. Mobile data is expected to grow at a 42 per cent CAGR through 2019 to nearly 11 GB per user per month, compared to a global average of 4 GB³, with usage driven heavily by content from third-party sites and apps, particularly video.
Delivering Economic Growth, Employment and Public Funding
The North American mobile industry contributed approximately US$670 billion to the economy, equivalent to 3.5 per cent of the region’s GDP in 2014, a figure that is expected to increase to US$750 billion by 20204. Across the region, the mobile industry employed more than 2.2 million people (directly and indirectly) in 2014 and the ecosystem contributed US$75 billion in public sector funding, excluding the impact of regulatory and spectrum fees. Driven by the rapid rollout of 4G networks, mobile operators in the region have invested nearly US$35 billion per year in network infrastructure development over recent years.
Operating Systems and Applications
North America is seen as a dominant player in the development of innovative services in mobile such as mobile devices and apps, although there are developments in Asian markets. Operating systems originating in North America also continue to dominate the global smartphone market, accounting for around 95 per cent of global sales in 2014.
The United States is home to the world’s largest app market in terms of revenue and has seen a number of new apps and services scale rapidly both domestically and internationally. These include services based around the new ‘sharing economy’, such as Uber and Airbnb, which have been funded and supported by a highly developed venture capital community predominantly based in Silicon Valley.
The Internet of Things and Digital Commerce
The North American region has also embraced the IoT particularly in the connected car, mobile health and wearable device segments, with mobile playing a crucial role.
According to GSMA Intelligence there were 54 million M2M connections in Q3 2015 across the region and although still a nascent market, the proportion of M2M connections as a percentage of total connections in North America is higher than in any other region of the world5.
Brands such as Google’s Nest and Samsung’s Smart Things have created an environment where consumers increasingly expect the seamless integration of a growing number of connected devices. The digital commerce market is also becoming more mobile-centric in North America, with an increasing number of banks, card issuers and retailers in the region supporting mobile payments.
“The region’s rapidly evolving mobile landscape has benefitted from a high level of operator investment and a vibrant venture capital community that has resulted in numerous innovations that many of us take for granted today,” added O’Hara. “Looking ahead, continued collaboration between North American operators and players across the broader mobile ecosystem will be essential in enabling the market to realise its full potential.”