Most mobile service providers in developed markets have moved past the point where text messaging revenue is the primary “data service” augmenting declining voice revenues. That was not the case in the late 1990s or most of the first decade of the 21st century. These days it is mobile data plans for smart phones that have taken that role. Messaging drove revenue in mid-2000s

In 2007, for example, more than $28 billion was generated by mobile short message service (SMS), multimedia message service (MMS), and instant messaging (IM) services between Western Europe and the United States alone. If email is also included, more than half of all mobile data revenue in these regions was derived from messaging. It was true that mobile messaging was the foundation of most data strategies.

These days, it is smart phone data plans, augmented by data services for other connected devices, which is more strategic. Early in 2011, for example, Vodafone Group hit a milestone. Vodafone’s latest quarter data revenue exceeded messaging revenue for the first time. Vodafone’s emphasis on sales of smart phones and associated data plans seems to have been the driver. Mobile data tops SMS

Right behind that strategy is expected revenue from connected devices that will include sensor applications of various types. Connected device revenue forecast

Machina Research, for example, estimates that connected devices will grow from nine billion in 2011 to 24 billion in 2020. The lion’s share of the growth will come from machine-to-machine connections, which will grow from two billion at the end of 2011 to 12 billion at the end of 2020.

That doesn’t directly translate into mobile service connections, though. The majority of those devices are expected to be connected using Wi-Fi, which really is an untethered use of a fixed broadband connection. Machina Research expects 2.3 billion of those device connections will use the mobile network in 2020, accounting for 19 percent of all cellular connections.

That implies M2M revenue will grow to EUR714 billion ($979 billion) in 2020.

PC and laptop mobile broadband will grow dramatically, from 215 million connections at the end of 2011 to 1.5 billion in 2020. By 2020 most PC/laptop broadband connections globally will be mobile, the firm suggests.

Wireless wide-area connected tablets and e-readers will grow from 66 million in 2011 to 230 million in 2020, as well.

Growth in handset data users will also be significant, with 3G+ devices set to grow from two billion at the end of 2011 to nine billion by 2020.

Machina Research forecasts that global mobile data traffic will increase from four exabytes in 2011 to 42 exabytes in 2020, with 60 percent coming from PC/laptop connections and 37 percent from handsets.

Machina Research expects mobile network operator data revenue to grow from EUR130 billion ($178 billion) in 2011 to almost EUR500 billion ($685 billion) in 2020.

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