June 10, 2010 - 2:15 pm
By Ruth Milkman | Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

On May 20th, the Commission released its Mobile Wireless Competition Report, the 14th in a series of annual reports to Congress, which reviews the state of competition in the wireless industry.

This year's report expands our analysis of what is traditionally called "Commercial Mobile Radio Service" into a larger understanding of competition across the full mobile wireless "ecosystem", including voice, messaging, and broadband services, as well as "upstream" segments (e.g., towers, spectrum, backhaul) and "downstream" segments (e.g., devices and applications). The broad perspective of the report reflects the increasing importance of mobile wireless broadband, as mobile devices that can access the Internet – such as smartphones – are gaining enormous popularity.

One of the main goals of the FCC staff in preparing this year's report was to bring as many relevant facts to the table as possible. In many cases, we've looked at trends from two or three different angles to reveal a fuller picture of how wireless marketplace is evolving. And, for the first time, we are making much of the data in the report available in machine-readable format for researchers and data practitioners. (Some data used in the report is from proprietary sources such as financial analysts which the Commission does not have the permission to re-distribute in machine-readable form.)

One example of an industry trend examined in the report from multiple data points is the growth of mobile data traffic, arising due to the increased adoption of smartphones and data consumption on new mobile devices that access the Internet. For instance, Cisco estimates that global mobile data traffic grew 157 percent from 33 terabytes in 2008 to 85 terabytes in 2009. The chart below, from independent industry analyst Validas, shows how greater device functionality leads to greater mobile data utilization.

Estimated Mobile Data Usage by Type of Device

And Morgan Stanley data clearly shows that smartphones are becoming a more significant element of the wireless market.

Smartphone Adoption Rates in the United States 2008-2009

In addition, industry revenue from data services is growing, as the below FCC analysis of industry data shows (available in our release of data).

Total Mobile Wireless Industry Revenues

The wireless industry is evolving, and our approach to this annual report has evolved in kind to provide a more complete picture of wireless competition. We hope this data-driven approach will prove to be a useful resource for consumers, analysts, and policy makers.

We're interested in your feedback – what does this data say to you?