In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile, Spectrum

From 2009 to 2017–a period of eight years–consumer costs for mobile bandwidth fell two orders of magnitude (100 times). Over that period, their consumption also grew by about two orders of magnitude, as well.

Those trends largely explain why mobile data revenues now are flattish. Prices per unit are down 1oo times, but consumption per account has grown by about 100 times as well.

Sources: GSMA Intelligence and Ericsson Mobility Reports

Those twin trends–orders of magnitude higher consumption and orders of magnitude lower revenue per unit consumed–explain why capacity costs must fall. In that regard, use of unlicensed spectrum has been key.

Wi-Fi now represents as much as 90 percent of end user data consumption. So it is not hard to predict that new methods for aggregating licensed and unlicensed spectrum (Licensed Assisted Access) are also going to be important capacity tools.

At the same time, huge amounts of new licensed spectrum are coming–in millimeter wave bands–also are coming, to support 5G. But all that spectrum will have to cost far less than licensed spectrum has cost in earlier eras.

At the same time, physical infrastructure and operating costs likewise will have to be reduced as well, to improve the business model as capacity requirements balloon.  

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