The average annual mobile contract spend has declined in value by over $130 in the last decade, dropping from an average spend per customer (after tax) of $23 per month in 2006 to just $12 per month in 2016. By contrast, the value of fixed broadband subscriptions declined from $25 per month to $21 per month over the same period – equivalent to just $48 per year, almost three times lower than the decline seen in the mobile space.
Declines in mobile revenues per subscriber can be attributed to a number of factors, including the growth of low-cost prepaid customers in emerging markets, within-territory competition, increases in SIM-only plans and the rise of OTT messaging services. Significantly though, the fact that comparable trends can be seen within regions indicates that the worldwide decline in average spend per contract is not simply due high growth of low-value customers in emerging markets bringing the global average down. In Western Europe for instance, the average mobile contract was worth $32 per month in 2006 and just $19 per month in 2016, despite an increase in postpaid subscriptions (rising from 58% to 63% of contracts over the same period). A fixed broadband subscription, by comparison, was worth $25 per month in 2006 and $22 in 2016 – despite heavy competition across the region. Even in the USA, a classically high-ARPU mobile market, Ampere expects fixed broadband spend per contract to overtake mobile spend per contract within the next three years, as vigorous price-driven competition begins to take its toll.
Fixed operators have made substantial investments, both in infrastructure and in content, to protect the value of their fixed-line businesses. Telcos such as BT in the UK and Deutsche Telekom in Germany have already used high-value rights to solid effect to bolster a threatened broadband subscriber base. Mobile content is increasingly becoming the next battleground as operators facing ARPU pressure look to utilise their video-capable infrastructure and devices to support their core product lines. T-Mobile in the USA has taken an aggressive approach to offering easy access to mobile content through its zero-rated Binge-On services, while Telefonica has set ambitious goals for Spanish-language content production to support its activities across Europe and South America. For content firms themselves, focusing on how their libraries can be adapted and developed to support mobile operator strategies and customer value will be key to making the most of this trend.