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Data to be favored over voice: Youth will alter communication technology

The enterprise must prepare for the ‘millenials,’ or Generation Y as they are often known, according to a report from 60 Minutes. This was a theme echoed by President and Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Media LP at (the Major League Baseball website) Robert Bowman in his keynote speech at Computer World’s 2008 Mobile & Wireless World conference on Monday.

He began the topic by presenting a statistic gathered by Chetan Sharma Consulting: Only 20% average revenue per user (ARPU) come from data plans on users’ phones.

“Right now, people are still reluctant to move to data plans,” Bowman said. But he suspects that the 20% ARPU will switch completely five or so years down the road; instead only 20% ARPU will come from voice and the remaining 80% ARPU will come from data.

As anyone knows, data plans are much more expensive than straight voice plans, so why is he so certain these statistics will swap? According to Nielsen NetRatings, broadband held only 8% ARPU in 2000 compared with 92% ARPU of narrowband users. Eight years later, 87% of users choose broadband over narrowband — and the reason? You get to have more faster; the ease of use and what users expect to own far outweigh the additional cost of broadband. The same, Bowman says, can be expected for people to switch from voice to data.

Still need more convincing? As a representative of the current 20%, Bowman explained why data was more important than voice: Anyone who knows him, he said, will know that if they have something urgent to say, they will send him a text message so that he can see it immediately. This cuts out an extra step of having to call his voice mail and listen to a message. Anyone who leaves him a voice mail knows that they will just have to wait.

The fact also remains that for younger generations, text is and has been the preferred method of messaging. Take his own teenage children for example, as Bowman did in his keynote: “Everyone who has a kid knows how they use a phone; it’s all data… My daughter only used her phone [for voice] to call us to pick her up.”

Even in the Developing a Global Wireless Infrastructure session today, Vice President of Information Services at UPS Mark Hillbush said that his daughter only had one contact in her phone for voice. “One contact,” he said “in two years! The sad part was that I don’t even think I was the contact in her phone.”

This goes to show, Bowman said, that the way children consume data and get entertainment is completely different than adults generations above them. The way they communicate using technology will evolve new applications, new devices and change the way we work in the world.

In my mind, what the enterprise has to prepare for are rapid advancements in technology. If you think new devices weren’t being created rapidly enough, I believe having Generation Y enter the workforce will zoom technology up the quadratic curve.

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