Given their rapid proliferation, smartphones and ‘connected computing devices’ (i.e the Apple iPad) will account for more than 87% of overall mobile network data traffic for US operators by 2014, according to research released yesterday by ABI Research.

While the rising tide has the potential to lift all mobile network operators’ boats, ABI expects that the two industry leaders–AT&T and Verizon–stand to gain the most. With the iPhone and high share of the smartphone market, AT&T garnered the largest share of any one mobile network provider in the US in 2009, a position ABI analysts expect the carrier to hold onto this year. The analysts forecast that Verizon will overtake AT&T come 2011 “as a result of its high mobile broadband subscriber base and increasing penetration of customers with Android and similar high data-use smartphone devices.”

Also among ABI’s findings and conclusions:

  • Connected computing device traffic will grow by 90% through 2014;
  • Growth of Android, iPhone and similar smartphones will cause average smartphone traffic levels to grow by 48% over the forecast period;
  • Smartphone traffic accounted for the single largest share of the market last year; connected computing devices will do so by 2014.

The widespread advent of mobile broadband and adoption of new smartphone and handheld computing devices is opening up new opportunities, and threats, to established mobile network operators, making it necessary for them to invest and innovate all along the value chain, from infrastructure to application development and the marketing and pricing of consumer devices and services, according to ABI practice director Dan Shey.

“Carriers will need to use their entire toolkit of options. Traditional means of increasing cell site capacity through backhaul additions, spectrum reallocations and in-building distributed antenna systems are only part of the story. Other methods needed include FMC offloading, more efficient browsers, and pricing and offer management.”

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