For the first time ever, U.S. mobile operators reported a net decline in postpaid subscribers. The seven major carriers together lost about 52,000 postpaid subscribers from 2011′s fourth quarter to the first quarter of 2012 reports Chetan Sharma Consulting.
Whilst seasonal changes acclaim for some of the fall, a shift to prepaid, no-commitment deals is primarily because of economic hardships. The fear however is that former postpaid subscribers may not come back when their fortunes improve.
Connected devices led year-over-year growth in the first quarter, rising 23 percent. Revenue from the major carriers’ own prepaid services rose 15 percent, while money coming in from wholesale deals, primarily third-party prepaid carriers, increased 10 percent. Postpaid revenue growth was just 1 percent.. Many postpaid customers have left for prepaid plans, which don’t require a long-term commitment, and they may never return. To keep making more money from their postpaid users, which still make up about 66 percent of all customers, the operators are selling phone and service upgrades and getting non-data users to adopt mobile data plans.
Another big change is probably coming soon, with “family” data plans that allow multiple devices and users to share one monthly allotment of data. Pooled data plans could make it easier and, in some cases, less expensive to use mobile data.
Data services will remain the driver of mobile growth, as data traffic in bytes has doubled annually for eight years and should double again in 2012. An average subscriber’s data use is approaching 1 gigabyte per month for some carriers. That growth has led to data making up more than 85 percent of all mobile traffic in the U.S.