NEW ORLEANS – Even though International CTIA Wireless 2012 didn’t officially kick off until this morning, the pre-show action yesterday drew respectable numbers in the Big Easy.

Setting the stage for a panel addressing “The Wireless Ecosystem: What’s Next?,” analyst Mark Lowenstein, managing director of Mobile Ecosystem, presented several key megatrends that have determined how things are going in today’s wireless world:

>> Smartphones have changed everything, and they account for 50 percent of the handsets used in the United States today.

>> The competitive landscape has been irrevocably altered, with never-before-seen players now shaping the products-and-services scene. These new service providers – over the top carriers, cablecos, Apple, Google, Amazon.com – have changed the balance of power when it comes to mobile content.

>> There is no one wireless ecosystem. Here’s what’s out there today: commerce & payments, advertising, content, M2M, health and education.

>> Changes in mobile and landline: the pricing reflects scarcity, and the composition of traffic is changing.

>> Substitution is huge. New technology will change traditional wireless voice usage, with Skype over 4G reportedly being better and the onset of voice over LTE (VoLTE) perhaps later this year. And operators are seeing their text-messaging revenues dropping due to subscribers migrating to other messaging providers.

>> It’s a multi-screen, cloud-based world. The average four-person home has 12 different screens on which they access content, and most of that content will move to the cloud.

The Bird’s-Eye View

Mari Cross, senior vice president at the Nielsen Telecom Practice Group, has been looking at the wireless industry from 36,000 feet. Here’s what she’s found:

>> Latino and Asian English-speaking wireless subscribers lead the way when it comes to U.S. smartphone adoption.

>> Android and Apple own the market (no surprise here), accounting for 90 percent of all the smartphones sold today. However, subscribers have said they want a third option, even though 86 percent of the people she’s surveyed say they will buy another Apple product when the time comes to upgrade. With Android, that percentage drops to 58 percent; with Windows Mobile 7, 34 percent; and just 23 percent for BlackBerry users.

Cross also mentioned that both Apple and Google have spent heaps on advertising, while the other platform providers are nowhere close.

>> In another surprise finding, prepaid is growing, with half of all new subscriber adds in 2011 choosing to pay upfront (including those who had been mainstream users). And 41 percent of these prepaid subs are buying unsubsidized smartphones.

>> Voice minutes continue to decline, being replaced by apps, Web browsing and SMS.

>> The rise of tiered data plans has slowed data growth. Even though more subscribers are consuming data at record rates, data-throttling and pricing have become issues. People have to decide how they want to spend their dollars, and they have to realize that they will have to pay more to access premium content.

Debra Baker

The Daily

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