In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile, Spectrum

One basic rule I use when evaluating service provider business models is to assume that tier-one service providers lose about half their current revenue about every 10 years, and therefore have to replace more than that amount of revenue to sustain growth. The rule likely works even for small independent service providers (I haven’t tried to quantify that historically).

We saw this trend in long distance services, various enterprise data services, fixed network voice, now mobile voice and messaging, entertainment video and even glimmers in the internet access area.

As 5G is commercialized, we almost certainly will see mobile substitution for fixed network internet access, though it is hard to quantify the amount of change. But voice substitution provides possible guidance.

In the U.S. market, a substantial portion of U.S. consumers now rely exclusively on mobile internet access. In fact, such mobile substitution already represent as much as 20 percent of U.S. households, says the CTIA. In some segments, such substitution might be higher, as much as 35 percent.

source: CTIA

So one might ask the question of how much further that trend can go, as 5G is commercialized, and major service providers begin to actively market 5G-based services that compete directly with fixed network internet access services.

We already know what happened with voice. The portion of U.S. households that rely on mobile-only  telephone service grew from three percent in 2003 to 53 percent in 2016, US Telecom says, using Federal Communications Commission data.

So it would not be far fetched to suggest that at least half of all existing fixed network internet access connections could eventually be replaced by wireless or mobile alternatives.

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