I'm quite impressed by Vodafone's results today - and even more impressed by the company's turnaround over the last 12-18 months into one which is embracing 'the real Internet' rather than persisting on trying to push its own content & multimedia services in preference.
Around London I see Voda advertising hoardings exhorting people to use Google on the go, something that would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago.
I suspect much of its epiphany has sprung from the realisation that it's 'pipe' revenue that is making its data revenue figures look good. It has shown organic growth of 45% in non-messaging data revenue. Non-messaging revenue is now up to a level of half that of messaging (SMS+MMS, which is itself still growing quite well) in Europe.
I've posted before about how much of Voda's data revenue must be attributable to laptop data cards & BlackBerries. This time around the company is pretty upfront about it: "The organic growth in data revenue of 45.1% was particularly strong and can be attributed in part to increasing penetration of Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS data cards and handheld
business devices." [I suspect that 'in part' is a polite way of saying 'mostly']
This is particularly interesting given that "Handheld business devices increased by 112.6% since September last year and Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS data cards grew by 78.9%."
This means around 1.8m data cards in Sep 07, and probably about 1.4m handhelds (there doesn't appear to be a hard number for last year's published so I'm extrapolating from Mar 06). So basically an average during the 6-month period of 1.4m 3G cards and about 1.1m handhelds [mostly BlackBerries]. Looking at my estimates last year this means that the time-averaged subscriber base has grown 65% and 100% respectively. Both are certainly above 50%, whichever way you slice it.
Now given those figure, that puts the 45% revenue growth in a slightly different light. It seems to imply that non-datacard/BlackBerry data revenues (content, Live!, consumer Internet, M2M etc) have actually fallen. It also probably means that the average costs for business data users have fallen, which makes sense as recent BlackBerries have moved outside the boardroom.
Let's use a very conservative back-of-an-envelope estimate of £35 a month for 3G cards, and £25 for BlackBerries. Multiplying through for 6 months gives £294m for datacards and £165m for devices. That's £459m out of a European total of £843m non-messaging data.
In other words, I'm estimating that 'data pipe' revenues have increased from 46% to 54% of Vodafone's European data revenues over the last year.
(I'm also not sure where Voda classifies data roaming interconnect fees, so that might account account for another chunk as well)
Once again, this illustrates my belief that mobile content is really pretty unimportant, compared with communications or context. Sure, Voda is very business-focused (28% of revenues are corporate), but it's still an indicator for the rest of the industry.
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