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February 27, 2012

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Earendil Star

Tomi,

thank you as usual for sharing with us our global perspective.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Earendil

My pleasure as you know. I love the numbers and am just too happy to share with others who appreciate it.

Cheers!

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Michael Elling (@Infostack)

OTT and WiFi offload are turning the cracks in the industry's vertical approach into fissures. The communications industry and players must re-orient from vertical integration to horizontal completeness (http://bit.ly/AbQbJH) to scale in a world of rapidly shifting supply and demand. http://bit.ly/xDbQaR OTT is an attack on the upper layers, while Wifi offload is an attack on the lower layers. Is drop-box an assault on the middle layers? Who knows, but these attacks will continue to come fast and furious. The carriers need to pull an IBM to survive. http://bit.ly/xhT1zL

vladkr

Cellphones evolution is quite interesting; from an in-car multi-kilos box, they became micro-computers that are more powerful than Apollo program calculators or even than Space-Shuttle nav-systems.

So the use of it changed; is it good? I don't know. Let's take a specific use case, that is important to me:

You're driving in the countryside, having fun, enjoying your time and you crash your car, in the middle of nowhere with nobody around... as we vulgarly say, sh*t happens. G1 and G2 cellphones used to be very handy in that situation, as whenever they are locked or not, one just had to dial 112, 911, 999, 000, 02, 18 or whatever emergency number is, and be connected.

Now,same situation in 2012, and you're a happy smartphone user. Unlock the phone remembering the Pin-code (not always easy after a shock), find the "call" icon in the middle of all the apps, select keypad option, and dial the emergency number.

Is that evolution? Of course smartphones are able to give weather forecast, give currency rates, update your Facebook status (half-dead on the side of the road), open Word documents, receive and send emails, so you feel like at work 24/7, and don't even think of ignoring your boss' emails.

Aren't we becoming slaves of our smartphones?

Now, we're talking about e-money just using mobile devices. Actually the idea is not new, as I remember in early 1999 Nokia and Sonera had already thought about it, but will it succeed?

We can now easily say that plastic cards are quite popular all around the world, but there are still places where people prefer paying with cash. Germany is said to prefer cash (to be confirmed), in Canada most people use cash, as in Russia... will people trust mobile-money?

If future smartphones will be used to start cars, open homes' and offices' doors, used as medical files, as an ID, as payment mean, etc. what will happen if one gets his smartphone stolen... or even if the battery runs low?

Will people trust this technology? Won't mobile technology reach its apogee and then slowly decline?

Michael Ahearn

Tomi I enjoy and appreciate your work, and have enjoyed your conference presentations over the years.One question I have. Amazing statistical compilation, but I need my memory refreshed as to where the statistical data comes from in this report and other published papers. Could you state where these figures come from or how you compile your statistics? I would love promote your research but for those not familiar with your work it would be good to know where your data comes from if they were to ask. As you know the research in the mobile space can be a bit "wild west" in terms of accuracy and methodology, especially data sourced from the web, so many people are naturally wary of what they read in the space. Many only believe data if it comes from established market research like Nielsen, comScore, Forrester and the like. Thanks.

Office 2010 Download

But its not ending there. The world's largest lock-maker, Assa-Abloy is deploying locks for hotels and homes that can be operated by mobile phone. Google, Nokia, Vodafone and many more mobile giants are in a race to deploy mobile money solutions around NFC Near Field Communciations, a new technology coming to our phones - 19% of Japanese already make such payments.. daily. You may have heard of the border-crossing incident on the US-Canadian border where a stranded visitor had lost his passport, but had a scan of it on his iPad and was allowed to pass over the border. I have been saying for some time now, that in the future our passports will be on our phones. But today, I advise all friends and collagues to make scans of our passports and driver's licenses and save them on our phones, just in case you are in a similar situation. While such a scanned image is not necessarily legally valid, it is far better than nothing - and if you have a good cameraphone (5 megapixel or better) all you need is good sunlight, take a picture of your passport and driver's licence and save them onto your phone(s).

Publisher 2010 Download

Its an easy number to memorize for this year - 4 Billion. That is the unique mobile phone user number. That is 57% of the total population of the planet, which very literally - not by statistical gimmicks - very literally do have an active mobile phone subscription (prepaid or post-paid) and at least one mobile phone handset that they use.

Baron95

Amazing amount of data - thank you. Nice recap of the growth in the past 10 year, and your 2012 immediate forecasts look very sound.

One trend I think you missed in the recap is that Mobile is becoming a winner take all game - or, more accurately, a few winners take all.

In the network equipment side, Ericsson, NSN, ALU and Huawei, control over 90% of the market.

On the Smartphone OS, Google and Apple control 75% of the market.

On the operator side, most markets have one or two dominant operators - with over 70% combined share, with one or two smaller or marginal ones.

By the end of this decade, we are likely to see the beginning of the complete disaggregation of the operator business. Similarly to what happened when the Internet disaggregated the likes on AOL. By then, most likely users will simply shop for the best value mobile data plan, and use services like Skype (with number), iMessage, FaceTime, Internet-based pseudo SMS/MMS to communicate. WiFi offload will make sure that operators can not raise data rates too high, and their business will become a commodity business. Companies like DoCoMo with their vertically integrated model will suffer the most. Company like Sprint - which are already competing on unlimited 4G data plans - will fare better (not that Sprint is such a good company by any means, but they are where the puck is going).

Baron95

Now one issue. Measuring how advanced the mobile telecom in a country is based on the "number of SIM cards divided by total population" is extremely disingenuous and misguided.

The work phone/personal phone, yes, is a phenomenon. But the number one reason people use multiple SIM cards (either in one or multiple phones) is for rate arbitrage - though they don't know what they do buy that name. It is curious Tomi, why you left it out.

In many countries, calling party pays for the call, but the call is typically free (or very cheap)for another mobile on the same operator. So with many pre-paid SIMs, you call mom using the SIM of her operator, you call your girlfriend with the SIM from her operator, you call your brother with a SIM from his operator. That is why operators hate multiple SIM phones. A user in these markets can go for several months with just a modest pre-paid buy-in.

Is that the sign of an advanced market? Nope. I submit it is the opposite. It is the sign of a distorted market and a sign that users have an affordability problem.

And that is why operators love the iPhone, even though they have to take a hit on margins due to the upfront subsidy. The iPhone has been the single most important tool to get users to become post-paid subscriber with a data plan. Apple has proven, even in places like China, that they can convert millions to a US-style post-paid subsidized plan.

P.S. Tomi, there are a few hundred million mobile phone subscriptions with no SIM card, from little carriers like China Telecom and Verizon, each having over 100M SIM-less subs. :) :) They are not losing much sleep over multi-SIM phones and seem to be having record profits :) Just saying.

Baron95

@Publisher 2010 "not by statistical gimmicks - very literally do have an active mobile phone subscription (prepaid or post-paid) and at least one mobile phone handset that they use."

No gimmicks? Well only if you think that every phone user/subscription is created equally.

What is more valuable 1 UK iPhone user on a post paid voice/data plan and iTunes credit-card backed account OR 250 Kenya dumb phones users each with 4 pre-paid SIMs in a drawer for a total of 1,000 unique subscriptions as counted by Tomi?

Well, I can tell you what customer I want to have :)

This is like saying - there are more wheels used in transportation in India than in the US, without taking into consideration that a much higher proportion of the Indian wheels are on bicycles, hacksaws, bikes, etc, instead of capable and modern automobiles. It is a meaningless number.

guest

"Well, I can tell you what customer I want to have :)"

Certainly, but the point is moot.

In Kenya, you will possibly have 1 post-paid iPhone subscriber for 250 low-income-low-expense pre-paid users, and this is the best you can get in that context anyway. If each of the low-income pre-paid users spends 1$ per month on your network (it is actually about 5$ ARPU/month in Kenya), then the 250 subscribers represent 250$/month -- much more than the single iPhone customer whom you might not have acquired in the first place.

Tomi stated often that there is real money to be made in the low-income, low-price, low-end segment -- although one must be very efficient to get it.

Louis

@Baron Your story about the impending dumb-pipification of the operators gets a little confused, since the mechanism you cite---the iPhone---is the same one you cite for generating expensive, locked, post-paid contracts.

I happen to think the 2nd story is correct, and mostly underreported. Apple is very happy with the "cheap to buy, expensive to use" smartphone cost structure, and seems to promote it as the iPhone expands into new markets. The reason seems clear enough: since the iPhone is the only product that can get large numbers of new subscribers, Apple can get the MNOs to give up a lot of the windfall profits.

The narrative that Apple is locked in some kind of struggle with the MNOs, had to redesign the iPhone to have a SIM at all, etc. strikes me as totally at odds with how Apple is making its money.

Piot

@Baron. Come now Baron, you have been here a long time. Why are you responding to a poster called "Publisher 2010 Download" who has simply copy pasted part of Tomi's post?

Alex Stanhope

Great article.

Very minor typo in the paragraph beginning "My dear friend...", clining should be clinging.

vladkr

I wonder if all these statistics include mafia, drug dealers, etc. who can buy dozens of dumbphones a month with different sim cards just to remain untracked by the authorities.

LeeBase

@Louis: The iPhone has turned carriers into dumb pipes. No carrier branding on the phone. No carrier apps preloaded on the phone. The iPhone customer is an Apple customer. They get their music from iTunes, their apps from the App store. iPhone users get OS updates when Apple prepares them, not when the carriers do.

Lee

Tomi T Ahonen

I'll do some replies but in short bits..

Hi Michael E

You make a good point. But those very same threats have been in the mobile industry for more than a decade and while similar threats have damaged other businesses, the mobile ie 'cellular' industry does have aspects to it that make it different - and resilient to such threats. Mobile operators/carriers have an ogilopolistic market condition due to the scarsity of the spectrum and that is likely to give them long life. But yes, there will be threats that come and we must monitor them. They won't kill this industry 'overnight' however, because its not just a service provider, it is also the handset. That is why for example WiFi was unable to demolish this industry a decade ago - the cheap handsets didn't have the ability and the laptop market was trivial in size compared to phones (and the gap has grown much wider since then)

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi vladkr

Another excellent point and it comes up almost everywhere that I speak nowadays, when I mention things like the mobile wallet or that soon our driver's licences and passports etc will be on our phones.

I hear you and that argument has been around for also almost a decade haha. I remember having the debates at Forum Oxford in the middle of the 1990s. Here is the overview to the issue. Nothing is 100% safe. You can drop your keys because of a hole in your pocket. A pickpocket can steal your wallet with your credit cards etc. Nothing is 100% safe. But mobile has 'natively' all the security elements that any other digital money or identity system has recently added - including unique identity chips like on modern credit cards, and the ability to force PIN codes like on European 'Chip and PIN' banking debit cards, etc.

But mobile has far FAR more security we can include and add - including identifying the user accurately (retina scans, fingerprint scans, voiceprint recognition etc) and many passive ways to monitor usage such as location, if you are at your home, office and normal routine locations, the nearby shopping mall, picking up your children from school etc, the system can monitor that your phone is behaving like normal. If it suddenly disappears from London and reactivates in Birmingham, you might have gone on a business trip, but the phone might have been stolen, and it can then ask for your security PIN code etc.

Thats on the security side. Then there is the utility. Only mobile money has the chance to give total control of your security, to you the individual, on a real-time basis. You can set limits of what money is approved without passcodes like say to pay public transport and parking and paying for the newspaper, and at what level payment you feel uncomfortable and have the phone go through the security check(s) which may be made conditional on a wide variety of situations. Imagine parents, they could have the children's phones operate without passwords whenever the kids' phones are in the proximity of the parents, but if the kids go out alone and want to use the mobile wallet, they must enter passwords - thus if a child loses a phone, it can't be used without breaking the security etc..

Which brings me to the single point of failure problem you talked about. The best aspect of mobile from a user point of view, is its recoverability, as Dave Birch told the Forum Oxford Conference last Fall. If you lose your cash, its gone. If you lose your passport or driver's license, you have to go stand in line at the office, have new pictures, go through the new process, takes weeks to get the replacement. If you have a credit card, they can usually replace it and ship a new plastic card to your home address in a few days. What of mobile?

If you somehow destroy your phone today, now. All you need, is borrow the phone of someone near you (like your wife or your business associate etc) and call the operator/carrier help desk, answer some security questions, your mother's maiden name etc, and they verify its you. Then your total (saved) mobile wallet function can be re-instated to any phone and any SIM card. Borrow your child's old phone and account, tell the operator/carrier to re-install your services to that phone number now, and you are 100% back in what, 15 minutes. NEVER has there been anything this secure or recoverable, as what mobile wallets can be. No, we are not there yet (in most of the world) but go visit Japan and see Osaifu Keitai on NTT DoCoMo, the world's most advanced mobile wallet, and you see how beautiful it can be.

So long answer to your question, but good question. This is the inevitable future for many reasons, but your concerns were valid, only they have been solved too, in mobile. Cheers!

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Michael A

The data is all produced by my consulting company, TomiAhonen Consulting of Hong Kong. We are a mobile specialist firm, just like those bigger analyst houses you mention like Nielsen, ComScore, Forrester etc. I have been publishing industry stats for more than a decade and chaired industry forecasting conferences since the mid 1990s and many consider me the grand old man of mobile numbers, and rate me the most accurate statistician and forecaster of the mobile industry.

So in one way, the numbers are 100% 'mine'. I do not peddle stats by IDC or Gartner or Ovum or ComScore or Pew or Nielsen etc. I often site them for reference, for similar findings or added information or perhaps a contrasting view, but the statistics in the TomiAhonen Almanac 2012 and in this blog are mine. Many are my original discoveries, formulae and algorithms.

But where does the raw come from? That is also a good point. I mention clearly in the intro to the Almanac that the data is based on several types of information. First of all there is raw data collected from the public domain. This is especially vital in terms of the foundation numbers like subscriber counts, handset sales, etc. The sources are always the most original sources, so its the carriers/operators, the handset manufacturer data, the national regulator data and the ITU, World Bank etc.

That data often lags, so that typically will have a short-term forecast. If I have the data for the past ten years but up to the end of 2010, I will then calculate the trends to update the data for the end of 2011. On that, I am very confident on my econometric models, some of the most complex ever devised for this industry and its why I tend to be able to hit short-term projections very accurately.

Then there is survey data, ie thats Pew and Nielsen and ComScore etc who go to survey consumers. I use that as inputs for some data. Then I have some - not much but some, of my own research I do of the market with my company to supplement the data where that may be missing. Beyond that, the rest is analysis and calculations and projections.

Out of all that I get inputs into my base model for the industry which then produces the data that goes into the Almanac. I am referenced in over 120 published BOOKS by my peers, I would suggest my industry trusts numbers that come from Tomi Ahonen haha..

Tomi Ahonen :-)

vladkr

Hi Tomi, and thank you for taking time to answer.

I felt concerned as I never put all important stuff (keys, id, credit cards) at the same place (ie. in the same pocket), and have a plan B for most situations.

Then, I'm a bit uncomfortable with the idea of having everything at the same place.

But let's consider it's secure (even if you're victim of a rapt, and then you won't be able to pretend that you don't have your car's keys, or money or whatever.); if it's the future, it will make the future of security companies.

I imagine that servers which will concentrate all users' information will have to be very strictly protected, as their content is a goldmine for any criminal or intelligence organisation.

You also will have to trust every employee of your service provider and its subcontractors, that's quite a big responsibility.

You will have to trust Microsoft and its OS as thanks to Stephen Elop's brilliant strategy, 99% of mobile devices will use Windows.

You will have to trust Asian suppliers, to be sure they won't manufacture devices able to intercept/descramble smartphones' content.

That's not to mention an important part of information will transit wirelessly, and then though encrypted, is easier to intercept.
-> there is a good reason why governmental/defence/other sensitive services use mainly optical fibre for communication, put computers in Faraday cages, and so on.

I may seem a little paranoid - thanks to years working for French defence companies and related experience - but we have to admit we don't live in a fairy-tale world : any (okay, let's say most) new technology has a good side and a bad one.

I agree it's the future, and that can't be stopped, but unfortunately, future doesn't always mean better life. I hope there is a plan B in case of problems with the plan A.

Nicole Gamble

I enjoyed reading your blog. I see you offer priceless info. Will definitely come back for more of this.

Baron95

@Louis

iPhone users today get three things from the operators:
1 - An upfront subsidy to buy the iPhone
2 - A generous data plan, when not in WiFi coverage - typically 2GB/month-unlimited
3 - The ability to make "cellular" calls and send "cellular" messages when needed. I.e. when iMessaging or FaceTiming or Skyping or whatever over the top cell bypass app they choose.

iPhone user today get from/through Apple:
- The phone
- The companion devices - iPads, iPods, MacAir, AppleTV, etc
- The ecosystem services: iCloud, iTunes, AppStore, iBooks, etc
- A lot of content: Music, Videos, Apps, Books, Magazines, etc
- The Apple Store experience (Genius Bar, Tifanny-like retail space, etc)
- The brand association.
- Extremely well implemented (the best by far in the industry) collection of sticky internet services - i.e. Facebook, twitter, Gmail, banking, airline, etc, via top apps.

Who has the strongest bond with the customer? Is it easier for a customer, at the end of contract to go from say Vodafone to O2 or to go from iPhone to Android?

Now move the clock forward 10 years. Where Android and Windows Phone become more like iPhone, and convergence across PC, TV, Phone, Tablet, Music Store, etc is prevalent on all three ecosystems and everyone has smartphones, and WiFi++ is very available, and more spectrum (e.g. analog TV spectrum) is release for bid, ****AND**** all "cellular" calls are really Voice over IP over LTE/LTE++.

What can users possibly want from operators besides a good data connection at a low/competitive price? A subsidy, maybe. Either way, operators will be nothing other than pipe providers.

And if they get out of line, Apple with $500B in the bank and Google with $200B in the bank can launch a "top markets" mobile data service. I'm not predicting this will happen, because it won't be needed. Operators will compete to provide data to smart mobile devices, just like gas stations compete to provide gasoline.

Yes, Tomi is right. Spectrum is a finite resource and expensive. So is Oil. Telecom networks are hard to build. So is a petroleum distribution.

In the end, consumers are more loyal to the car brand (Mercedes, Toyota, etc) than to the gasoline brand. That doesn't mean there is not money to be made by operators. Exxon makes a ton of money, just like VW. It just means that operators have to compete on pennies/GB, just like oil companies compete on pennies/gallon. In the meantime Apple, like Mercedes will compete in brand aspiration, product excellence, etc with astronomically high margins.

I know what side of the business I like more. :)

Louis

@Baron, @Lee: All of what you say is somewhat obvious, at yet...

"It just means that operators have to compete on pennies/GB, just like oil companies compete on pennies/gallon."

In the prepaid European market, where this already happens, the iPhone actually has competition based on price. And this market is already dramatically cheaper for smartphone usage--like $20/mo vs. the $80/mo minimum from AT&T and Verizon to use any smartphone at all.

Apple's model is basically to grab most of that extra $60 at the moment. So, maybe AT&T doesn't have a strong brand, but it does have an ecosystem of millions of locked for all time iPhones that get handed down and used beyond the contract period.

Moreover, Apple tries to expand this model wherever it goes instead of trying to play in commodity prepaid market. To stick with your car analogy, gas is a commodity with no real obstacle to users switching brands, but the cars are also more expensive up front, to the point all the car sellers offer financing as well. The MNOs do this job for Apple right now.

So, basically, the old-timey people who think anybody ever cared about their MNO's "branded services" (they didn't) are wrong, but the idea that Apple and the big MNOs aren't doing something mutually beneficial to avoid a usage price collapse doesn't seem to stand up to more than a few minutes of thinking.

Baron95

@Louis - Agreed. Very good point. There is clearly a symbiotic relationship there.

The analogy would be if BP was offering Mercedes Benz cars at a 75% discount, so long as you agreed to fuel it for 2 years only at their gas stations. BP would be getting high income high fuel consumption users into their service stations over time, at the expense of an upfront subsidy.

The issue though is that Mercedes (a desirable and differentiated brand) can go to all the oil companies (which are mostly indistinguishable for consumers) and play one against the other for the highest subsidy.

In parallel, where Operators today sell voice minutes, SMS minutes, data, etc.... in the future they will sell just data. So it becomes even more comoditized.

Again - both sides can prosper, but one is likely to see margins go up over time, the other is likely to see margins go down over time.

LeeBase

@Louis: your point is orthogonal to the discussion of the iPhone making carriers a dumb pipe.

As to pricing -- a different topic entirely -- Android has already facilitated the crashing of smartphone prices. People seem to forget that Nokia's top end smart phones used to be more than TWICE as expensive as the iPhone...but it is true today that Apple's iPhone sets the top price for smartphones.

So what? Take a look at Apple's PC business for clues to Apple's opinion about low margin segments of markets. Apple simply doesn't choose to go after that business. Never has, and there's little reason to believe Apple ever will. You'll see Apple change the pre paid market to post paid (as we can already see in China) -- but you'll never see Apple competing on price for the low margin segment of the business.

This ENTIRE TIME (since 2007), folks have predicted doom for Apple due to the price of the iPhone. For five years there has been only two limits to the iPhones growth: how many can be made and how many carriers carry the phone. That's it. So far. So far, Apple sells every iPhone it can make. So far Apple has been able to exceed the pace of the market (if only by a bit) by opening up on new carriers.

Apple ending the year as the number 1 smart phone brand by unit volume is a fluke. Nokia abdicated the crown and Samsung just barely missed taking Nokia's place, and surely will this year.

At some point there will be no more carrier growth left...and Apple's manufacturing (or Foxconn's) will be able to make more phones than Apple can sell. Hasn't happened in 5 years, but likely will sometime next year (not this year).

By then Apple will be able to compete for the mid market with a 3GS class phone....and Apple will continue to own the most profitable segment. Whether Apple grows closer to the 25% or falls back to 15% of the unit sales is hardly of concern to Apple. They will still be raking in the vast majority of the profits, which is what Apple plays for.

Lee

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Available for Consulting and Speakerships

  • Available for Consulting & Speaking
    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Hong Kong but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit www.tomiahonen.com Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

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