Have you ever read something that is so obvious you wonder why you hadn’t thought if it yourself?  After reading a newly released list of 2010 Predictions from Deloitte for the coming year in our industry, you come away wondering why you’re not charging $1,500 an hour for consulting because you’d thought of it already but never bothered to write it down!
Amongst a list a really quite exciting predictions I took umbrage to one that said the smartphone would continue to thrive in 2010.  Blow me down, who’d have thought that?  But it’s only when you dig deeper you find the real gem behind the ‘bleeding obvious’.
It seems that the smartphone category actually outsold portable PCs worldwide in 2009, 180 million of them to be exact.  Smartphones are now, officially, the lead selling portable computing devices.  Impressive, yes, but by 2011 they will outsell all PCs, both portable and desktop categories.
When you consider that the most used function on all those PCs is searching the internet it makes very good sense that it will become the most popular function of smartphones.  40% of those tech savvy Japanese consumers already use mobile search daily, but there is no guarantee, if past history is any indication that we will follow suit.  It is more likely that Western subscribers will surpass that simply because there are more English language based websites to search, right?
What the Deloitte people did not extrapolate was that the more searches that are carried out the more websites are likely to be visited.  The more websites visited, the more data traffic generated. The more data traffic generated, the more network capacity required, etc. etc. Throw in some very generous ‘all you can eat’ data plans and you soon get a sense of how big the ‘search phone’ issue becomes.
They did however mention in another prediction “that global cellular data wireless networks will have gone from underutilization to congestion, the wireless equivalent of traffic jams, in 18 months. As a result, wireless providers are now addressing insufficient network capacity. But because data traffic is largely unmetered, there is no commensurate increase in revenues to pay for the required network upgrades. By 2014, network capacity issues should be dealt with by 4G technologies (Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMax), but in most service areas neither of those technologies will be fully deployed in 2010. The challenge for carriers is determining what to do in the interim.”
And there lies the dilemma approaching many mobile operators worldwide.  after years of ‘building it hoping they will come’, we may be entering the era of ‘hoping they use less whilst waiting for something to build’.  Of course, charging for metered usage might have the same effect, but who will make the first move in the US market, for example?