This blog is by Leslie Shannon at Nokia Networks.
As someone who monitors LTE markets worldwide, I spend a lot of time looking at Korea. All three operators there have been world leaders in the technology since its inception and they continue to drive new developments with world-leading implementations of LTE-A and VoLTE. Go, Korea!
Just when I’d thought I’d crunched through all the relevant market data, I was given the heads up to check out www.netmanias.com, which displays data about the Korean telecommunications market in various engaging ways. And, wow, I didn’t expect this! A graph I found there was an eye-opener, showing the split over time of LTE subscribers (green) versus 3G subscribers (yellow) and 2G subscribers (blue):
(Here is the link to this image.)
The shock isn’t that there are so many LTE subscribers, but rather that there are still so many GSM subscribers. In fact, as of June, the three Korean operators still had 6.9 million GSM subscribers among them – a whopping 12% of the total subscriber base. The Korean operators have been excellent at converting their 3G users into 4G users, but much less successful in converting 2G users into anything else. And many other mature markets paint a similarly surprising picture.
Go ahead, start a Grey Revolution!
When I consider who in my circle still uses a GSM phone, it’s only four people: my parents and my parents-in-law. This is hardly a rigorous analysis, but in mature markets, I’m guessing that it’s the older user who makes up a big part of that GSM-only demographic. I’m the last one to promote technology purely for technology’s sake, but that means a lot of grandparents out there aren’t able to see their grandchildren over Skype or Facetime, who can’t quickly check the weather forecast as they head out the door, who won’t have a device appropriate to support home medicine technologies that are just around the corner. In fact, my mother just got a hearing aid that came with an iPod so she can adjust the volume and tone quality. Wouldn’t it be easier for her if there were an app on a smartphone that she would already have in her purse rather than adding an extra gadget to her life?
Looking at these GSM numbers makes me realize that in my market analysis, I too have been focusing on methods of data monetization that almost exclusively attract young people. Facebook Zero, zero-rated content from premium brands, huge bundles of text messages – all of these offerings are completely irrelevant to my parents. But they might get interested if their operator offered them a package including things like Skype video calls to their grandchildren in Finland, a heart rate monitor, and that hearing aid control panel. Smartphone tutorials for seniors might even be enough to lower the threshold for some to make the switch from GSM to LTE.
So when operators start wondering what their next steps in data monetization could be, perhaps that would be a good time to take a hard look at their GSM user bases and figure out who is in them and what would entice them into the breathtaking world of useful mobile data.
Could the next big thing in mobile data be a Grey Revolution?
And please share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #NetworksPerform #mobilebroadband #TDLTE #LTE # 4G #GSM #Nokia #4G.