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April 30, 2012



2 billion handset for 4 billion unique user

do people change their watch or wired phone or maybe television this often?


Hi Tomi,

I have three questions and one remark:

1- Do your numbers include prepaid-plans users (ie. Drug dealers, mafia, pirates, intelligence agencies who use dozens of phones per persons just as examples, as all these quoted categories won't add 1B users) ?

2- Do you think international intelligence/security agencies can still cope with this amount of communications to monitor?

3- is there a future of TV on smartphones (then increasing significantly data traffic)?

Then the remark: That's somehow strange to think that people have better and easier access to mobile phones than to water and/or food; what a strange world we live in, don't we?


2nd remark:

France thinks of using 14 digits phone numbers (for mobile phones) by 2014 as there seems to be too much demand for available numbers.

For information, France's population is 66 Millions.


"I can now offer the TomiAhonen Almanac 2010 as a totally free eBook edition. Please go to and download yours today and save on your smartphone and share with all your friends."

Wow, this was unexpected, Tomi, I'm certain you know that free download is not about signing up to some obscure website, that uses an awful preview only to threat its visitors.

Besides, you do suggest people to download the book and save it on a mobile phone and the book is the ancient one. It still has old-fashioned, hardcoded PAGES.

Any chance you could reissue the book using mobile-friendly format and website that allows free download?

BTW, if you don't feel like doing that for Almanac 2010 (for whatever reasons you may have), Almanac 2009 or even earlier would be just as fine.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi cygnus, vladkr, S

cygnus - yep. The average replacement cycle for all phones has been shrinking and for smartphones is even shorter, and shrinking. But remember, the average is skewed by those ultranerds who want to show off a new phone every quarter or even every month (yes, they exist).

vladkr - yes, includes prepaid of course, most of the world's subscriptions are prepaid. International security can rather easily deal with this volume, as most of the data and traffic is not encrypted. It was the spy stuff with heavy encryption that required all those expensive supercomputers in the Cold War period haha

TV on smartphones is a weak proposition. We do like the always accessable video if it corresponds strongly with the TV schedule (most mobile phone TV does not, there are invariably your favorite programs that are not shown, due to various licencing issues). but even then, we prefer to watch TV on our plasma screen TV and we don't want to pay for mobile TV services. but television-related mobile services are a huge growth business, starting with TV-voting via SMS

More access to mobile than water, electricity yes, even homes. The handset penetration among homeless adults is very high in USA for example - partly as charities find that it is a very useful way to help the homeless, to give them basic connectivity and digital services via mobile. Bizarre industry yes, but people vote with their wallets, they truly find the connectivity via mobile that useful, they will select mobile. Just last month there were news stories from India where homeowners would rather have a mobile phone than install an indoor toilet to their home for example.. Bizarre but true. The 14 digit phone number is eventually necessary as we extend mobile connectivity to non-humans like our pets, our cars, our home robots, our household gadgets, etc etc etc

S - I am but one man. The total downloads of the Almanac are in modest numbers. It is not really worth my while to spend the time to try to reformat it to various ebook readers etc, its not Harry Potter haha.. Its a technical book to support experts in this industry. I trust the value of the tables and charts and writing makes it worth having. If not, its just a file, easy to delete haha.. At least now you can see the full edition also before buying the current version. And I do like to give something to my readers, even though I can't give the current Almanac for free

Thank you for the comments

Tomi Ahonen :-)


@Tomi What you're saying here correlates well with this GigaOM report

Together these essentially say that Skype was probably a bargain for Microsoft at the price they paid. (Contra to most commentary at the time.)

Why are you so negative on it in your Elop-related blogs?


@Baron Post-paid subscriptions probably can't last as a business model over the long term. Data connectivity is a commodity product that is more naturally sold that way.

The US carriers use incompatibility and local monopolies (so much for the capitalistic US) to oversell their networks. However, even there, the resulting inefficient allocation might start to cause problems. There are already signs.


Thank you for your answer Tomi.

So if most of the traffic isn't encrypted, isn't it a bit risky to use it as a wallet, ID, to declare taxes, etc. ?

Maybe connections will be encrypted then for those uses, but that will demand a lot of processing power... maybe I should create a server rental company...

Anyway, do you think that despite this high growth in mobile technology, there is a chance of limiting spectrum uses (thanks to 4+Gs) ?

Right now, 700, 800, 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 2600 MHz (and maybe I forgot some) bands are used by mobile phones only. Isn't that's huge? It's also a problem of radio-pollution (how are we supposed to get any message from space if there is that much noise in our planet?).



This is my insight on your question.

Honestly I don't really know how the american carrier manage their network, but I know the way in a country that frequency is shared between several operator.

First, if one area is crowded, the carrier need to create more zone in that area so that it could serve more customer.
example. downtown area
population density 10x higher than outskirt, 100x higher than suburb.
if in suburb area the BTS is 4 km radius (area = 4^2 pi = 16pi = 50.3km2), then in that downtown area it should be around 0.5km2, which is around 400m radius. With this strategy the same amount of area that were more crowded doesn't need more bands.
There were other strategy, for example, most of the BTS have 3 120 degree directional antena (6 antena facing 3 direction), if the carrier want to improve the number of customer they can serve in 1 area, they could use smaller degree, let say 60 degree with the same radius. with this alone, they could manage to serve double the amount of user.

In united states, the government need to create a block of frequency like in europe and asia. So, create an 8 block of 800MHz/900MHz/...../2100MHz. With this strategy government only give 1 operator 1 block in 1 spectrum. Therefore for example T-Mobile would have 1 block in 800MHz, 1 block in 900MHz, 1 block in 1800MHz, 1 block in 1900MHz, and also all the other carrier.
So, what the purpose of this??? So, there won't be a phone that were not compatible with some carrier. and it would create a more equal opportunity for all carrier and user. and it would also prevent some carrier to lock some user.


Thank your for your answer.
To me, it's not just a problem of population and its density. Its a problem of frequency spectrum.

The problem is that each new technology or new generation (GSM, UMTS, LTE...) adds new spectra... and there are less and less available as the old ones (850/900 for example) are still in use, so we begin to face problems with that:

LTE frequencies have to be squeezed between DCS/PCS, radar frequencies and other systems (not to mention Wifi, remote keys, etc.)... what frequencies will be left for the 5G?

I think mobile technologies' future and EMC (electro-magnetic compatibility) issues will provide engineers with more and more headaches.

I also agree with you that will also be a problem for the captive end-user.



i believe the carrier/government re-cycle the frequency
for example, in indonesia
GSM have 2 frequency 1800 & 900
CDMA have 2 frequency 800 & 1900

because CDMA is not successfull, and all carrier were bleeding and almost die
the government squeze all carrier into 800MHz and set the 1900MHz for 3G.
(again, because Indonesia is different from USA, moving frequency were easier).
and I heard that one of the GSM frequency is being emptied now for 3G.
so in Indonesia 3G might be 900MHz & 1900MHz or 1800MHz and 1900MHz.


@Baron: All your examples are government monopolies for a reason. The correct analogy is gasoline.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Baron, Louis, vladkr, Tomifan and cygnus

Baron - in very rough terms, three fourths of planet is now on prepaid accounts, but postpaid / contract accounts tend to have far higher ARPU so my gut says revenue wise about half and half. Your assumption of smartphones on post-paid holds mainly only in those markets where handsets are subsidised, otherwise it doesn't matter so in terms of total smartphones sold globally, a little more than half would fit that pattern, in the rest of the world, there are plenty of smartphones sold on prepaid accounts, or on postpaid accounts with no 2 year contractual commitment.

Louis - yeah the numbers are very solid across the major analysts who report on these things. Chetan Sharma's 2012 forecast came with very similar numbers too. As to Skype, did MS overpay or underpay, that is a topic not for this blog, this is explicitly not a mergers and acquisitions or wall street blog. I don't want that frivolous debate here about whose share price is worth what today and yesterday and tomorrow (we make exceptions on specific blog articles and companies when something really significant happens in the industry). But Skype is the ultimate red flag to the carrier/operator community. They will never let Microsoft (and/or Nokia) into their playground with Skype. Nokia CEO just yesterday admitted at the Nokia annual shareholder meeting that the Skype boycott is so severe, many carriers refused to carry any Lumia phones because of Skype - and Skype isn't even part of Windows Phone in its current form, but will be in Windows 8. So for the mobile aspirations of Microsoft, Skype is the death-nail. Microsoft will never become the 3rd ecosystem in mobile, because they own Skype. I have written a whole blog about just that point. But for Microsoft, its main business obviously is not mobile, its the desktop and they lost the internet battle to Google. Skype is a good way to extend the desktop space and reclaim a bigger piece of the internet pie. That is why MS will not give up Skype. They will end up winning the battle but losing the war.

vladkr - first on encryption - we can of course add encryption on top of the transmission layer, so that is not precluded. But in the native form, there isn't one. Note that 3G networks use CDMA which was a 'near unbreakable' military communication technology so in terms of attempting to crack it, haha, even supercomputers today can't crack basic CDMA ie 3G on CDMA2000 EV-DO or WCDMA/UMTS and their evolution paths.

Then on spectrum. There is international mismatch, where given frequencies are not uniformly available. The ITU and national regulators have tried to free up spectrum for mobile ie 'refarming' but its slow going and each country has its own issues and for the industry, they need major standardized blocks of spectrum to make the equipment development worth it. No, I don't think there is anywhere near the required spectrum, we're running out fast and there will be bottlenecks into pretend 4G and real 4G and beyond that to 4.5G sometime mid next decade haha

Tomifan - good point. I do mean by actively used phones, that it is both a handset and subscription currently in use, I did not mean handsets that are rotated haha, it would increase the total number of handsets far above the subscription population, as most of us have at least one older handset in reserve just in case the current one is broken or lost etc...

cygnus - very good detailed response thanks!

Keep the discussion going, will return with more replies

Tomi Ahonen :-)

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Hi Tomi

There are 6.9 billion subscriptions and 5 billion sms users (start 2012).

There are 4 billion unique users. I assume then the 5 billion sms users are actually 5 billion subscriptions that use sms?

Am I correct to state that there are 2.9 billion unique sms users ( 4 x ( 5 / 6.9 ) )?


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Thanks your for your answer.
To me, it's not just a problem of population and its density. Its a problem of frequency spectrum.


thank you

Rahul Sharma

Hi, Awesome post. Estimaton of data is always vary according to it. SMS users were increases day by day as density of population is increases.Its a revolutionary growth in mobile users after 2012.

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