UK: TMT Trends: Predictions, 2005 - A focus on the mobile and wireless sector

Last Updated: 9 February 2005
Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017


Welcome to the 2005 edition of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) predictions for the global mobile and wireless sector.

The sector looks set for an exciting 2005. The widespread launch of 3G networks and major deployments of RFID will set the stage for the sector’s progress during the second half of this decade. By year-end 2005, we predict that there will be some 2 billion cellular mobile subscriptions worldwide, cementing the mobile phone’s position as the most rapidly-growing and widely-adopted technology of all time.

These predictions are the result of comprehensive research throughout 2004, the principal elements of which include:

  • input from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu’s member firms’ 5,000 Technology, Media and Telecommunications partners, directors and senior managers around the world;
  • conversations with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu’s member firms’ clients;
  • dialogue with leading industry and financial analysts.

Accompanying each of these ten predictions is Deloitte’s bottom line: the suggestions to the sector for exploiting each key development that the coming year holds. We trust that this guidance makes this report a valuable reference for your company. On behalf of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and the TMT practices of its member firms, may I take this opportunity to wish you all the best for 2005.

Igal Brightman
Global Managing Partner
Technology, Media and Telecommunications


Cellular mobile will remain the dominant mobile and wireless technology in 2005. By the end of the year, there will be nearly 2 billion subscriptions worldwide.

Voice will continue to be the primary source of cellular mobile revenues, typically accounting for more than 80 percent of total revenue. Price competition will drive voice margins down, but overall demand will continue to grow strongly. As a result, 2G networks will increasingly become cash cows capable of generating EBITDA margins of 45 percent or more. Additionally, a significant minority of voice customers will take a second 2G subscription for data – for instance, a mobile e-mail device – creating a strong likelihood of mobile penetration surpassing 100 percent in some markets. This will have a real and immediate impact on average revenue per user, making 2005 a very positive year for 2G.

Dozens of 3G networks will go live in 2005. Customer interest will initially generally be low due to poor handset performance, disappointing network quality and a lack of compelling benefits. However, mobile operators have faced this same situation several times before – whenever their network technologies have changed – and skepticism will turn to optimism by year-end. Indeed, before the year is over, operators and equipment vendors will likely be delivering a 3G experience that is comparable to 2G. And by 2006, 3G handsets, networks and services will in many cases be noticeably superior to their 2G forebears. On both platforms, messaging will continue to be the primary source of non-voice revenue growth.

Chat, instant messaging and other emerging services will grow substantially, taking up the slack as SMS growth declines. Beyond 2G and 3G, many operators will continue spreading their bets – adopting new technologies in rapid succession – to the detriment of their customers and shareholders. WiFi hotspots will be a prime example, with numerous companies fighting to expand their share of a declining market.

The impact of RFID is expected to be enormous, immediate and global, with literally billions of RFID tags being deployed in 2005. RFID will initially be based on closed-loop, proprietary networks, but will eventually spill out onto public networks, creating a huge amount of data traffic – and a healthy opportunity for network operators.

As the mobile market approaches saturation, segmentation strategies will become far more important and sophisticated. Services and pricing will increasingly be personalized, and operators should seek out lucrative opportunities targeting specific ethnic groups and other tight-knit communities.

Meanwhile, the most compelling and lucrative mobile content will likely continue to be ring tones (already a $2 billion industry), wallpaper, and other simple forms of personalization and self-expression.

Small talk by billions adds up to big revenue

By the end of 2005, there will be nearly 2 billion cellular mobile subscriptions worldwide. Subscriber growth will be strongest in Asia and Latin America, with penetration in Europe and North America beginning to flatten.

Voice will continue to be the primary source of revenues and profits – typically accounting for more than 80 percent of total revenue – and mobile voice volumes should continue to grow steadily. In many countries the mobile phone will become the preferred choice for voice calls, partly due to the ubiquity of the medium and partly due to the ease with which calls can be made and received. Additional voice traffic may be stimulated by lowered prices, driven down by a combination of regulatory pressure, competition from existing players and new entrants, and bundled pricing. Although competition will drive voice margins down, 2G networks will increasingly become cash cows in markets where penetration has reached its peak, and where roaming activity is high.

Subscriber growth will be strongest in developing countries, where mobile phones are both a transformational technology and a status symbol.

Deloitte Bottom Line

The global market for voice services, both fixed and mobile, is rapidly approaching $1 trillion. In 2005, mobile operators must try to capture as much of that value as possible – encouraging customers to migrate from fixed lines, and carefully managing services and pricing to maximize profitability. For many operators, voice revenue will be crucial to funding 3G rollouts.

Committing at the highest level. Given its continuing importance to top line and bottom line growth, every voice business should have its own dedicated executive. There is still ample opportunity for mobile operators to grow their voice business, without resorting to price cuts. But without the commitment of a dedicated executive, companies will generally struggle to maximize the potential of their 2G cash cow. Many operators have a senior executive assigned to mobile data and content, even though this typically accounts for less than 20 percent of total revenues (and less than 5 percent if messaging is excluded). Yet most have not committed that same level of leadership to voice.

A voice executive’s responsibilities would include: stimulating usage, creating sensible pricing models, maximizing roaming revenues, and ensuring phones remain easy to use. A voice executive would also lead the fight for comfortable handset designs, simple interfaces, and long talk times, ensuring that voice use doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

3G emerges from the shadows

2005 will see dozens of 3G networks go live. Initial consumer interest and adoption may well be low, but by year-end the situation should improve markedly in many countries. The primary issues affecting early growth will likely be:

  • Lack of major benefits. The main benefits being promoted for 3G are video calling and video downloads, features that most customers do not find compelling – at least not yet. In contrast, the move from analog to digital offered three significant benefits: better voice quality, enhanced security and privacy, and improved roaming.
  • Poor handset performance. 3G handsets, although growing in number, are large, expensive and have poor battery life relative to their 2G counterparts.
  • Disappointing coverage. 3G network quality, particularly indoors, will generally be noticeably inferior to 2G during the initial rollout.

Mobile operators have faced these same circumstances before, when moving from 1G to 2G, and from 2G to 2.5G. Each change encountered substantial inertia from consumers, and operators had to work hard to make the benefits of the new technology explicit. The same will be true for 3G. By year end, 3G operators will have defined increasingly compelling service portfolios; next generation handsets will have improved measurably; and 3G network quality and coverage will be significantly better. 3G will not achieve widespread adoption during 2005, but will likely turn an important corner on the road to ultimate success.

The enterprise market in particular will show promise, with data card use growing healthily – especially as 3G pricing is rationalized. Some business users will find 3G much more convenient and economical than public WiFi hotspots for occasional remote access, and IT departments will appreciate 3G’s added security. Use of embedded mobile data communications in machines will also grow, albeit from low levels.

Operators may collectively earn billions of dollars from tax rebates on 3G licenses, which would contribute to renewed optimism by year-end.

Deloitte Bottom Line

Delivering practical benefits. Mobile operators have a long way to go before 3G represents a sustainable and profitable business, but they must not lose their nerve. 3G will succeed if operators focus on practical applications of the technology, driven by real customer needs and usage patterns.

The enterprise market should be the initial area of focus. Remote access is currently exhibiting strong growth, and 3G – with its advanced security features – can be superior to WiFi as a remote access solution. By adding prepaid access, particularly for data card users, 3G operators could largely displace WiFi hotspots, providing city-wide coverage at very competitive prices.

Operators should approach the 3G consumer market with services that are incremental improvements over successful 2G services, from ring tones to mobile e-mail.

Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) may provide another source of revenue, particularly those that focus on niche enterprise verticals. 3G has the potential to capture a great deal of data traffic from fixed networks, particularly in specialized areas such as security, logistics, transportation, and healthcare. To tap these potentially lucrative markets, operators must be prepared to partner with MVNOs, as well as with specialist developers and distributors.

In all cases, 3G will remain a largely urban phenomenon, meaning operators will need to deploy dense networks with good in-building coverage.

Mobile penetration surpasses 100 percent

This is big news for the mobile industry. Mobile penetration in excess of 100 percent, will become reality in a growing number of markets in 2005. This trend will help make 2G a highly lucrative business for some operators, particularly for 2G pure plays.

An increasing number of customers are taking a second 2G (or even 3G) subscription for data. Last year’s growth in smart phones and mobile e-mail devices will continue to gather pace in 2005. Many customers, particularly enterprise users, will choose to keep voice and data on separate devices.

Similarly, many business customers will take a second voice subscription for personal use – either as a second line on their existing phone, or on an entirely separate device – allowing them to ‘switch off’ work while still remaining mobile and reachable. 

Deloitte Bottom Line

Capitalizing on 2G. The majority of customers will retain 2G as their only mobile network throughout 2005. Increased voice usage – combined with a surge in customers with two (or even three) mobile subscriptions – will lead to very strong cash flows and EBITDA margins of 45 percent or more. Yet operators will need to be pro-active to capitalize on these developments.

Mobile e-mail devices should be marketed specifically as second subscriptions, with rate plans structured to make them a palatable option. Operators should also offer customers a second line – with a separate phone number – either as a prepaid or contract option. Combined with value added services such as automatic line switching, multiple voicemail accounts and separate billing, this would encourage customers to make even more extensive use of mobile for voice.

The growing popularity of mobile e-mail devices as a separate subscription sends a clear message that customers do not require a single device to do everything. This has ramifications for the entire mobile industry. Operators should continue to offer dedicated best-in-class devices for voice and for data, with each having its own characteristics and strengths – and of course, its own battery.

Simplicity sells

Simplicity – in terms of services, content, devices and user interfaces – will likely continue to be the most important attribute for cellular mobile customers in 2005. The market will continue to favor effective, practical services that reflect customer needs, ignoring services that push mobile devices beyond their practical limits.

The most compelling and lucrative mobile content will continue to revolve around phone personalization. Ring tones, real tones, wallpapers, basic games and other simple content for self-expression will remain popular in the youth market, and will gain new traction in more mature segments. Text-based puzzles, including crosswords, word searches and anagrams will outsell complex console-style games. Meanwhile, text messaging will continue to outshine its more complicated multimedia relatives.

Deloitte Bottom Line

There is a common misconception that the mobile industry is ‘mature’. But at just over 10 years old – in current digital guise – many of its customers are still adjusting to mobile technology. To ensure continued growth, operators must deliver products and services that allow users to take a simple, step-by-step approach to mobile adoption.

Working within the limits of the platform. Mobile is a powerful medium, but it’s not omnipotent. Operators must avoid becoming too contrived in their service offerings, or pushing new services onto the marketplace too aggressively. Most customers adopt mobile phones for very specific purposes and don’t necessarily want them to do much more. For example, many customers consider the move from voice telephony to video downloads a step too far. Technical challenges should always take a back seat to customer needs.

Keeping it simple. What customers really want is simple content that allows them to customize their phones. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, a short, customized ring tone has more value to customers than an entire song. And the ring tone costs less to create and deliver. So why fight it? The global ring tone market is already worth more than $2 billion and is highly profitable. With a broader catalog of musical genres, humor, and spoken ring tones, the potential rewards can be even higher.

Pushing the right buttons. There are ten number buttons on a mobile phone, but only one generally has a service assigned to it – ‘press 1 for voicemail’. Operators could greatly stimulate adoption of new services by taking advantage of the other nine number buttons, making it a one-touch process to check e-mail, send a text message, or download a ring tone.

Segmentation delivers higher margins

In 2005, operators will likely take a more scientific approach to segmentation and marketing. During the acquisition phase of the market, which has all but ended in developed countries, wireless providers used marketing crudely – defining segments in broad terms such as business vs. personal and prepaid vs. post-paid.

In mature markets, the primary focus for 2005 will likely be on retention. That will require a much more systematic and precise approach to segmentation, particularly in light of increased competition from new market entrants and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Customers will be looking for greater personalization, including highly-tailored service packages and custom pricing. To meet these demands, operators must actively leverage their existing customer data, using that information to deliver superior, personalized service.

The growing success of mini-MVNOs, which focus on specific groups and communities within the broader market, will underscore the importance of customer intimacy and insight. These operations take advantage of special pricing for calls to particular countries, or between members of the same community. Services and brands targeted at individual ethnic groups will be particularly lucrative, with operators actively consolidating and strengthening their current offerings, while aggressively pursuing new groups not currently being served.

Deloitte Bottom Line

Focusing on communities. Targeting individual communities within the broader market can provide substantial benefits for operators. Ethnic groups, students, communities of interest (such as the fans of a particular sports team) and other groups with shared values and needs represent a rich source of opportunities. Focusing on smaller segments will allow operators to be much more effective at stimulating usage and building customer loyalty, and will eventually help them serve the entire market more successfully.

Operators should be on the lookout for community-oriented MVNOs that can help them grab the early lead on this important opportunity. Such MVNOs will grow in number and effectiveness by offering reduced rates on specific routes and between community members, short-code dialing, and even first-language support. Operators should treat these mini-MVNOs as an opportunity, not a threat. They help stimulate awareness and interest, and are a potentially lucrative source of wholesale revenue.

Digging deeper into prepaid. The majority of mobile customers are in the prepaid segment. Yet operators know little to nothing about their largest group of customers. Operators should identify the many sub-segments that comprise their prepaid customer base, and develop specific offerings for them.

Messaging is critical to success

Interpersonal communication has powered the mobile revolution, and will continue to do so in 2005 and beyond. Mobile e-mail will grow very rapidly in both the personal and enterprise markets, and text messaging will continue to account for up to 20 percent of operator revenue.

Picture messaging will increase in 2005, achieving four important milestones. First, the installed base of camera phones will be large enough to allow peer groups to start making active use of picture messaging services. Second, the increasing availability of phones with megapixel cameras will improve overall image quality. Third, operators will likely lower their prices, making picture messaging more competitive with text. Finally, both operators and handset vendors will move to make picture messaging services much easier to use.

Deloitte Bottom Line

There is tremendous latent demand for messaging services, but a number of obstacles remain – particularly for picture messaging.

Making it work. Operators must make a concerted effort to address compatibility and configuration issues with camera phones. Two years after picture messaging was launched, over 10 percent of all customers still leave the store with an operator-subsidized camera phone that isn’t properly configured to send pictures – giving operators little chance of recouping their investment.

Dropping the price. Rate plans and pricing must also improve. Operators should worry less about cannibalizing SMS and worry more about losing all revenues from picture messaging when people start uploading snapshots from their phone to a computer and sending them via e-mail.

Operators should not be afraid to experiment with new forms of messaging. SMS took the entire industry by surprise, and there are doubtless other interpersonal services still waiting to be discovered.

Convergence Blows Hot and Cold

Convergence will remain one of the hottest topics in telecom, media and technology. But as in previous years, its actual effects will be limited. Experiments with TV and radio on mobile phones will tend to generate little value, as quality, cost and relevance hinder adoption. Console games on mobile phones will likely also prove too much of a compromise for the hardcore gamers being targeted. Convergence will overall have a positive effect on the mobile market, as applications such as mobile e-mail proliferate. There are already more mobile phones in the world than connected PCs, and it seems likely that the mobile e-mail user base will someday outnumber its fixed counterpart. Even today, Europeans send more text messages than e-mail. Mobile e-mail will remain a niche market in 2005, but handheld e-mail devices and smart phones will gain significant market share steadily throughout the year. Companies that offer true integration of mobile e-mail with office and home-based systems will also enjoy strong revenue growth.

Deloitte Bottom Line

Getting value from convergence. Mobile e-mail is an important development for the mobile industry because it demonstrates convergence’s true potential. Most convergence attempts fail due to lack of relevance, with operators trying to pack a single device with so many features, services and revenue opportunities that they wind up with a bloated solution that doesn’t serve anyone. But the ability to send and receive e-mail from anywhere is a service that makes a lot of sense. This is a huge opportunity that mobile operators should take very seriously.

Customers don’t want convergence for its own sake. And they never ask for devices that are complicated, difficult to use and expensive. What they want is better value and simpler services. When convergence delivers those benefits – as it does with mobile e-mail – the market welcomes it with open arms, and the whole industry reaps the benefits.

Operators spread their bets too thin

Many mobile and fixed operators will continue to adopt new wireless technologies in rapid succession. Many will continue to deploy WiFi hotspots – even in the face of weak demand – in the hope that it will complement their 3G offerings and generate more touch points with the customer. HSPDA, DAB, DVB-H and WiMAX will follow similar patterns.

The strategy of spreading their bets is unlikely to deliver much value for network operators – or their customers. Operators will likely waste significant amounts of money deploying technologies that are largely unproven, using questionable business models that are bad for the bottom line. At the same time, customers will increasingly adopt a wait-and-see approach. After all, if operators can’t make up their minds about which technologies to focus on, why should customers be any different?

Deloitte Bottom Line

The wireless world will continue to grow in breadth as well as depth. Wireless technologies will be increasingly pervasive and powerful, but ultimately it is the operators that will determine if those technologies become truly useful – or simply more numerous, disjointed and confusing.

Picking a horse. The main reason operators move so quickly to adopt potentially disruptive technologies is to ensure they are in a position to capitalize on the industry’s next big thing – whatever that may be. However, placing big bets on every promising technology is a very imprecise and inefficient approach, especially since few disruptive innovations ever achieve commercial success. Operators are in a good position to make informed choices, and they must show more conviction and clarity in their strategies.

One of the industry’s biggest potential pitfalls is introducing new mobile technologies before existing technologies have had a chance to generate returns. This nearly happened with GSM, and could easily happen with 3G if operators don’t decide which technologies to stand behind.

WiFi sizzles but hotspots remain cold

The market for private WiFi installations will continue to skyrocket. Businesses and home users will increasingly adopt WiFi for internet connectivity, local area networking, and emerging applications such as wireless music streaming. Companies capable of installing, configuring and managing WiFi networks will enjoy substantial growth, as will vendors of equipment based on WiFi.

In contrast, deployment of public WiFi hotspots will probably continue to outpace usage. Fixed operators, mobile operators and WiFi pure plays may well end up fighting to serve a niche market that might actually contract in 2005 due to increased adoption of GPRS and 3G data services. Fee-based hotspots will rely on business users, with little demand from consumers. Usage will only be substantial in places where business people congregate, such as airport lounges, business hotels and conference centers. Yet even among business users, demand for fee-based WiFi access may actually tail off over the course of the year due to:

  • increased adoption of mobile e-mail services on dedicated devices, reducing the need for people to check e-mail on a computer – one of the principal uses for WiFi hotspots;
  • security concerns that restrict the use of public WiFi networks for corporate data;
  • greater availability of free hotspots (a.k.a. ‘honey pots’);
  • increased availability of web-based access to corporate e-mail, allowing people to check their accounts from public PCs instead of connecting their own computers through WiFi.

Deloitte Bottom Line

Capitalizing on WiFi. WiFi is an important and disruptive technology that deserves attention and investment, but that investment needs to be carefully directed. The past few years have shown only niche demand for WiFi hotspots – generally not enough to justify the cost of connecting green field sites. Any company thinking about offering fee-based WiFi access should conduct a rigorous business case that realistically examines the expected costs, customers and cash flow.

WiFi deployment in businesses and homes will continue to be a very potent market. To maximize adoption, WiFi solutions must be essentially plug and play so that anyone can install them. Technical support is also critical. WiFi introduces another layer of technical complexity, which requires specialized knowledge and diagnostic tools. Customers will only adopt WiFi if they have somewhere to turn when it stops working.

Security is another major issue. WiFi is inherently less secure than a wired network, making security a significant concern for businesses and consumers alike. For WiFi to achieve its full potential, manufacturers, resellers and installers must offer solutions that are as secure as possible – taking advantage of features such as encryption and VPN to keep user data safe.

RFID: The giant awakens

RFID is a critical technology that in 2005 should make it out of the lab and into the commercial world – producing an impact that is enormous, immediate and global. The combined influence of major retail chains, defense contractors, automotive manufacturers and others – all of whom are requiring suppliers to use RFID – should prompt a massive increase in RFID adoption.

By the end of the year, billions of RFID tags are expected to have been commissioned. Collecting, collating and presenting all of that RFID data will become a very sizeable industry, with IT companies grabbing the lion’s share of revenue. RFID readers and other hardware will also represent a very healthy market.

RFID applications are not limited to tagging and tracking products, parts and peripherals. The same technology can also be used in healthcare (for monitoring patients), construction (for managing projects and equipment), and even transportation (for monitoring baggage and passengers in airports).

Deloitte Bottom Line

2005 will see a great deal of experimentation with RFID, although teething problems are inevitable. Yet the learning curve will be short, and over the long term, RFID’s impact will be enormous.

Understanding RFID. Vendors and systems integrators must strive to set RFID in its proper context. RFID is not just a replacement for barcode; it is a transformational technology that can help reduce waste, curtail theft, manage inventory, streamline logistics and even increase productivity. Today, most companies are overly focused on price, which is inappropriate for a new technology – but that should eventually change as people begin to understand RFID’s full potential.

When deploying RFID, there are a number of security risks that should be understood and addressed. RFID technology could theoretically be used for spying – allowing competitors to see exactly what a company is producing, storing, and shipping. An underground market for RFID espionage is likely to emerge, making it imperative for companies and suppliers deploying RFID to focus heavily on security and integrity, even if it requires more time and money to implement.

In 2005, most RFID transactions will be closed-loop, running on private networks. But over time, RFID traffic will increasingly flow over public networks – particularly wireless networks. Companies must think about managing this transition, not only in terms of security, but also in terms of cost. Although each RFID data packet is relatively small, the cost of transmitting them by the billion will be substantial.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.