For the fourth consecutive year, scientists at JDSU’s Location Intelligence Business Unit (formerly Arieso), revealed the latest trends observed in mobile data usage in a new report. Expanded to cover multiple developed and developing markets operating 3G and 4G networks, the 2013 study reveals how use of mobile data and consumer behaviour is becoming more extreme.
The ‘i’s still have it
Apple users have been the ‘hungriest’ consumers of mobile data in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 data measured by the study (iPhone 4, iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 respectively). Last year, the report indicated a possible end to this dominance as Galaxy S III users closed the gap. But iPhone 5s usage is the most intense witnessed to date, keeping Apple users at the top of the chart.
The study found that iPhone 5s users demand seven times as much data as the benchmark iPhone 3G users in developed markets (20 percent increase on iPhone 5) and 20 times as much data in developing markets (50 percent increase on iPhone 5). Beyond the 5s, Apple products account for six of the top ten ‘hungriest handsets’, along with two Samsung products, one HTC and one Sony.
An infographic comparing the data consumption of users across a range of the most popular devices observed in the study can be downloaded here. A data table featuring a wider selection of devices is in the report and can also be downloaded here.
When it came to uplink data, Samsung users are at the top of the chart. Galaxy S4 users produced and uploaded five times as much data as iPhone 3G users in developed markets and 11 times as much data in developing markets.
“Each new generation of iPhone has resulted in increases in data consumption of between 20-40 percent – even today when data use is common. Though interestingly, users of the more economically-priced iPhone 5c consume data in the range between that of the iPhone 4s and 5 users,” said Flanagan.
4G: LTE users are 10 times more extreme than 3G users
Two years ago, the study started to track the impact of the most excessive ‘data hogs’ on mobile networks. 2011 data found that 1 percent of 3G users consumed half of the entire downlink data. 2012 data showed that 1 percent of 3G users still consumed about half of the data, even as some of the ‘data hogs’ moved to 4G/LTE.
This year, the research reveals 0.1 percent of 4G users consume more than half of the entire LTE downlink data. As such, 4G users are 10 times more data hungry than 3G users, of whom 1 percent still consume half of the 3G downlink data.
“The faster the speeds that mobile operators provide, the more consumers swallow it up and demand more,” continued Flanagan. “One would expect a honeymoon period in which early adopters test their toys. But for 4G users to consistently exhibit behaviour 10 times more extreme than 3G users well after launch constitutes a seismic shift in the data landscape. This has important ramifications for future network designs.”
Tablets – mini by name, mini by nature
Users of the fourth generation iPad have shown themselves to be the most data-hungry amongst tablets, consuming almost 40 percent more data than last year’s hungriest device, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1.
The study also reveals that the new iPad mini is seen to be “mini” in name and in data consumption, consuming 20 percent less data than second- and third-generation iPads.
“Last year, we were surprised to see that smartphones trumped tablets when it came to data consumption. Lost ground has not been made up by tablets, in spite of the progress of the fourth generation iPad. Only two of our top ten most hungry devices were tablets this year, compared to three last year,” commented Flanagan.
Developed versus developing – surprising similarities
The study revealed that developed and developing markets alike had similar overall rankings of data hungry smartphones, with the iPhone 5s topping both charts, demonstrating the global nature of the smartphone market. However, the report found that the number and variety of data cards and dongles was lower in developing markets, and tablet devices relatively rare.
“Developing markets saw higher data consumption by flagship smartphone users, relative to the iPhone 3G standard. This appears to be driven by two factors. First, the older iPhone 3G has relatively lower data consumption per user in developing markets. Second, the absence of other high-volume data devices, such as data cards and tablets, means that users will consume more data via flagship smartphones.”
Dealing with the deluge
Since the iPhone 3G arrived in 2007, mobile operators have been engaged in an ongoing battle to manage spiralling consumer demand for data.
“This report provides new insight on how operators can deal with skyrocketing data use. For example, the fact that 0.1 percent of 4G subscribers consume half of the data may prompt operators to identify extreme users. This, in turn, may make it easier to deploy small cell and Wi-Fi access points to ease network congestion. However, the accuracy of these placements should be of paramount importance to operators due to the limited range of the small cells and Wi-Fi,” said Flanagan.
“This is likely part of an overall trend towards the “personal” wireless network. Just as femtocells were placed in homes to satisfy network coverage objectives on a subscriber-by-subscriber basis, small cells and Wi-Fi access points may be placed to satisfy network capacity objectives on a subscriber-by-subscriber basis,” he concluded.
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Users of the 5S slurp up seven times more data over the study’s benchmark iPhone 3G in developed markets and 20 times more data in developing markets. Apple smartphones and tablets accounted for six of the top 10 most gluttonous devices with the inclusion of the iPhone 5C, 5, and 4S and the iPad 3 and 4.
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