Many of the services driving the traffic growth, such as video streaming, applications and social networking, are largely in the hands of over-the-top players that rely on advertising to generate revenue.
As a result, wireless carriers are in the position of helping to drive demand for data plans but deriving little in the way of revenue from them. Informa Telecoms & Media forecast that the portion of mobile value-added-service revenues going to operators will shrink from 56 percent in 2011 to 41 percent in 2016 as over-the-top services spread.
However, carriers may be able to compensate for some of this loss with an increased emphasis on carrier billing as the app market continues to grow.
“The main thing that will help operators retain a place in the mobile content and applications value chain will be the increasing reliance on carrier billing by app store owners - with the notable exception of Apple - especially as app stores expand into emerging markets,” Mr. Escofet said.
Mobile data consumption will grow as mobile users watch more video, play more games, listen to more music, browse more Web pages and send more messages using their mobile devices. The top three data guzzlers in order will be applications, video streaming and Web browsing, per Informa.