This week in 1973, Motorola executive Martin Cooper made the world’s first handheld mobile phone call. One of the great tech visionaries, and someone I learned invaluable lessons from early in my career at ArrayComm, Marty Cooper realized the mobile phone would shift the emphasis of communication away from reaching places and onto reaching people.
45 years later we measure mobile users in billions but, when Cooper made his first call in New York City in the ‘70s, that was unimaginable scale. How would billions of people be able to afford the service?
In fact, it felt like scale when, 20 years ago in 1998, the number of mobile phone users worldwide reached 50 million.
Today we have a different view of addressable markets. While 50 million remains a landmark for consumer uptake of a new product, service or technology, the focus is now on how quickly that landmark is reached.
By way of illustration, popular memes and infographics compare uptake of consumer staples such as the television and the automobile with uptake of social media platforms and smartphone apps.
Timeframes have shortened from decades to just a couple of years. Some apps have reportedly racked up 50 million unique users in a matter of days.
Meanwhile the trillion-dollar industry which grew out of Cooper’s call is still focused intently on that vision of finding new ways to bring high value mobile services to everyone, everywhere.
Sponsored data may just be the latest service to earn a place on those infographics. It allows brands to cover some or all of the mobile data costs associated with their apps, so end users do not have to pay to use them. It expands addressable markets for both apps and mobile operators, and makes valuable services available to more people.
In terms of uptake, it’s right up there. It took only 18 months for the Datami platform to engage 50 million mobile users through sponsored data campaigns. 18 months to deliver over a Petabyte of mobile data; the equivalent of 13 years’ of continuously streamed HD-TV Video.
Coincidentally, 13 years is around the same time it took for TV to reach 50 million users, if those infographics are on the money.
Expect the number of engaged users to accelerate exponentially. Like Marty Cooper’s vision for mobile phones, sponsored data is about reaching people. Using it to reach a billion of them feels in no way unrealistic.