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September 30, 2007


Dean Bubley


There are two more reasons that some of the 'subscriber' numbers keep growing at unexpectedly high rates:

- Multiple device & SIM ownership. In some markets we're on 1.6 subs per person, and I recently saw some research suggesting that in the UK, about 10% of users have 4+ devices. That seems a bit topside to me, but I can certainly see a clear justification to get to maybe 2.5 subs/person in the next 4-5 years.
- Outside the US, Japan & a couple of other countries, about 70-80% of subscriptions are prepay. In many places, you buy an 'empty' SIM and top it up as required. Initial outlay can be as little as $2 (I've bought quite a few myself when travelling in obscure places). By doing a SIM-swap, you can have multiple people on a single phone, or (as in the point above), have a walletful of SIM cards to play tariff arbitrage. Rules & standards on what constitutes an 'active' subscription are far from consistent - potentially an inbound SMS to a SIM card that's been lying in a drawer for 6 months might trip the 'activity' filter



Dean, that's the first argument I heard from every analyst, whenever I question forecasting underestimates. I agree there's a big difference between mobile subscriptions and mobile users, but I try to make sure that whatever I'm discussing is consistent, i.e. one or the other. In the case above, I'm comparing forecasts that align with PTA subscription counts prior to June 2006 and fail to match them after June 2006.

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