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CTIA: Deutsche Telekom CEO turns spotlight on data growth


U.S. mobile operators have outpaced their European counterparts in growing data usage and revenues, but operators around the globe face similar challenges in moving from a focus on subscriber growth to growing new service revenues from existing customers.

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That was the keynote message from Deutsche Telekom CEO Ren? Obermann, speaking from the stage at the CTIA show this morning. Operating mobile networks in both markets – including T-Mobile’s 3G network here in the U.S. – Obermann brought a unique perspective on how the global markets for wireless broadband are different, and yet in many fundamental ways the same.

Overall, Obermann cited stats that indicated that mobile data revenues grew about 29% in the U.S. last year, compared with just 11% in Europe. Non-voice ARPU (average revenue per user) amounted to about $15 per month in the U.S., compared to about $9 per month in Europe.

Not only did U.S. operators more aggressively address a market thirsty for smartphones and mobile data services, but at a higher level more quickly shifted from the customer acquisition mode of past years and to a focus on generating additional revenue per customer, Obermann said. The industry needs to “treat subscribers as real customers,” he said. “Loyalty today matters more than ever before.”

While the service reputation of mobile operators isn’t “exactly great,” Obermann quipped, customers emphatically do not view operators as “dumb pipe” purveyors. “Our customers have not bought into that idea yet,” he said, noting that in fact mobile subscribers look to operators “to support the entire suite of services and devices they use.”

Between adding value for those traditional subscribers, as well as taking advantage of a world in which almost every machine is connected – both in the business world as well as more consumer-focused devices in the home – growth in the mobile industry has far from reached a plateau.

“It’s true that voice and messaging has become commodity,” he said, “but the big thing is Internet mobility, and I believe there is growth there for the entire industry…if, and that’s the big question, if we are efficient in managing that traffic growth.”

In announcements this week at the show, DT’s T-Mobile unit said it expects to have 100 metro areas in the U.S. covered by its high-speed HSPA+ network by the end of the year, averaging speeds of about 5Mb/s – but with the potential to go even higher. A late starter with 3G, T-Mobile “has nearly caught up with our peers,” Obermann said.


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