For all the talk about the iPhone, ringtones, the wireless Web and mobile e-mail, here’s the reality few people want to admit: the vast majority of wireless revenue comes from voice services because the vast majority of wireless subscribers mostly use their devices to talk.
Talking on your cell phone is no where near as sexy as using an iPhone or Blackberry but that’s the reality once you get beyond the hard-core business crowd and the geeks. Carriers are reluctant to admit as much because voice is a non-sexy, lower margin service compared with high-margin, sexy data services.
It’s not that often, for example, that you’ll hear ads from Verizon, AT&T, Rogers or Bell touting their crystal-clear sound quality when making a call. Instead, they’re trying to get you excited about being able to check your e-mail anywhere, anytime or surfing the Web so you can use Google at all hours of the day. It’s business, and the sweet profits are in data, not voice.
Still, the carriers are pounding away on consumers so they can justify the major investments they’ve made in 3G networks. Meanwhile, device makers such as Apple, Research in Motion, Nokia and Samsung are aggressively supporting the data “campaign” by making increasingly sleek and sexy smartphones.
Keep in mind, however, that buying one of these babies isn’t cheap after taking into account you either have to pay through the nose upfront or commit yourself to a long-term contract to reduce your upfront costs to something less than what your monthly mortgage payment might be.
I realize telling a device-loving, leading-edge audience that wireless data isn’t as sexy as cool as they think is probably going to encourage a lot of pushback. But that’s okay.
And it’s not to suggest that wireless data isn’t eventually going to be significantly more popular but right now, it’s not the imminent reality many techies believe.
“I look at a lot of Joe and Jane consumers on main street anywhere and a lot of them are pretty content with just a regular cellphone,” Llamas said. “It does what they need it to do and basically that is just to make a phone call.”
Next on this week’s wireless agenda is a hard look at the projections for mobile advertising and entertainment. Part one of this wireless series was yesterday’s look at “sublime” iPod Touch.
Update: BusinessWeek has an interesting story looking at how VoIP is going mobile. While the carriers will probably figure out a way to capitalize on this kind of data flowing over their networks, VoIP is something that likely scares them.