Global mobile data traffic continued to surge in September, raising the prospect of increasing demand for battered telecom equipment makers.
The largest Internet browser firm Opera Software ASA said on Tuesday global data traffic through its mobile browser rose 8.7 percent in September from August. Opera's data traffic was up more than three-fold from a year ago.
The mobile Internet market has boomed since 2007 introduction of Apple Inc's iPhone, which has increased all handset makers' focus on Internet usage on the phones.
Apple has aggressively shone the light on this space, said Simon Wilkinson, chief executive of Myriad Group AG, whose Openwave browser has been installed on 2 billion phones.
Wireless operators are keen on raising revenue from Internet browsing and the social networking boom as revenue from traditional voice calls declines, but they are facing increasingly congested networks.
This is helping browsers like Opera, which packages up to 90 percent of the data to save network bandwidth.
Opera said in its monthly mobile Internet report that packaging of data enables mobile Internet users in total to save $8.1 billion a year in the top 10 countries alone.
Opera has increased its lead over the iPhone browser in the last few months and controls 26.9 percent of the market in October so far, according to Web analytics firm StatCounter. The iPhone browser and Nokia browser followed with 21.2 percent and 20.8 percent of the market.
The boom in mobile Internet is attracting new players to the market -- Mozilla is entering the already crowded market next month, when Nokia starts to sell its top of the range model N900, the first Nokia phone using Linux software. Mozilla is also readying a roll-out of Firefox for Windows Mobile.
Data traffic on mobile networks rose on average 4.7 times last year, with some operators seeing traffic surge more than 10 times, boosted by the uptake of wireless data cards in laptops, according to telecoms equipment firm Nokia Siemens.
Nokia Siemens, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent -- which suffered in recent years from aggressive pricing by Asian rivals such as Huawei -- are looking for rising data traffic as a lead into new orders.
Operators are realizing that the incremental mobile internet revenues can hardly justify the incremental network capacity investments, which are primarily software licenses, said Antonios Drossos, managing partner at consultancy Rewheel.
Thus vendors face growing pressure from the operators to renegotiate the 'pay as you grow' network capacity pricing mechanisms, Drossos said.
Opera has 35.6 million users of its Opera Mini browser, who all access the Internet through Opera's servers -- giving the firm usage data -- and who generated 227 million megabytes of data traffic for operators worldwide last month.
(Editing by Steve Orlofsky and David Holmes)