Data hog

We've long known that traffic only gets worse.  And now a new study confirms that it's not just vehicular traffic that displays this seemingly immutable rule.

Thanks to new smartphones and the apps that tag along, mobile data is accelerating beyond expectations, network management company Arieso finds in a new study.

Following a similar study in 2010, Arieso’s new analysis reveals that so-called "extreme" users are becoming even more extreme, with 1% of subscribers now consuming half of all downloaded data.

One thing is clear, the study finds: the capacity issues plaguing mobile operators around the world will worsen in 2012.

iPhone 4S

The Arieso study compares data usage across a variety of smartphones and connected devices. It finds that users of the iPhone 4S demand three times as much data as iPhone 3G users and twice as much as iPhone 4 users, who were identified as the most demanding in the 2010 study.

In a finding consistent with 2010 results, it also shows that Google Nexus One users make twice as many data calls as iPhone 3G users.

“The introduction of increasingly sophisticated devices, coupled with growing consumer demand, is creating unrelenting pressure on mobile networks. The capacity crunch is still a very real threat for mobile operators, and it looks set to only get harder in 2012,” commented Dr. Michael Flanagan, CTO, Arieso and study author. “The mobile industry needs new investment and new approaches to boost network performance and manage the customer experience”.

Top line results

The Arieso analysis compares the data consumption of users of the latest smartphones against the iPhone3G as a “normalised benchmark”. The study found that different users and different devices exhibit very different demands on the network.

The most significant change in consumer behavior between 2010 and 2011 data has been driven by the introduction of the iPhone 4S. iPhone 4S users download 2.76 times as much data as users of the iPhone 3G. And while an Android-powered device maintains last year’s position at the top of the table for uplink data volumes, with HTC Desire S users typically uploading 3.23 times as much data as iPhone 3G users, the iPhone 4S falls just behind in this category with a typical 3.20 times as much data uploaded.

There are some very hungry handset users, even compared to the iPhone 3G benchmark (iPhone 3G = 100%):

Data calls per subscriber:

  • HTC Google Nexus One: 221%
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia X10i: 157%
  • HTC Desire: 156%

Uplink data volumes:

  • 3G Modems (various): 2654%
  • HTC Desire S: 323%
  • iPhone 4S: 320%

Downlink data volumes:

  • 3G Modems (various): 2432%
  • iPhone 4S: 276%
  • Samsung Galaxy S: 199%

“While the report provides general trends, the studies on which they’re based demonstrate the importance to operators of understanding the increased consumption each type of smartphone brings. Despite stark industry warnings, mobile operators are still playing ‘Guess Who?’ with their subscribers,” continued Flanagan.

“Without adequately preparing networks to support the new generation of smart devices, operators risk spiralling and misplaced operational expenditure and delivering a sub-par quality of experience to customers. It’s critical that operators redouble their efforts to limit the impact of this inevitable squeeze.”

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