Carrier Evolution

How much can consumer spending on communications, including mobility services, broadband and other services continue to grow, as a percentage of total household spending? The answer to that question could well determine the health of the global telecom business.

And there are clear indications that household spending on a range of communications services and appliances has been growing over the past couple of decades. In fact, a spending rate below three percent was the norm until the recent Internet and mobile era.

In part, you might argue, that is logical. People now are buying multiple services (broadband access, video entertainment, mobile telephone service, fixed telephone service) where in the past they were only buying a single service, namely fixed network telephone service.

There also are some indications that overall spending on devices and services is reaching unprecedented levels.

U.K. household spending on communications, broadly defined, are as high as 12 percent of total household spending, the U.K. government says. That figure seems unprecedented and out of line with historic percentages in most markets. If such levels can be reached, then there is room for overall spending on devices and services to more than double.

In the U.S. market, household communications and information technology spending has recently been in the five percent of spending range. That includes both “communications” subscriptions and devices such as computers and other “office” technology.

And there are clear indications that consumers are spending a greater percentage of their disposable income on mobile services, in particular.

U.S. consumer spending on phone services rose more than four percent in 2011, the fastest rate since 2005, according to Department of Labor statistics.
And mobility now drives much of that spending. In fact, families with more than one smart phone sometimes pay more for mobile service than they pay for cable TV and home Internet access.

The longer term issue is how much more spending can grow, as a percentage of total household spending.