Mobile Data And Changing Habits

Let’s begin the day with a factoid:  last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000.  That nugget comes from the Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012–2017 which you can read by clicking the link.  Some of what it has to say – as with the growth of smartphone use, for example – isn’t all that surprising.  A few other points is kind of eye-opening:

  • Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012.
  • Android is now higher than iPhone levels of data use.
  • Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2012.
  • By the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2017 there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita.
  • Nonsmartphone usage increased 35 percent to 6.8 MB per month in 2012, compared to 5.0 MB per month in 2011. Basic handsets still make up the vast majority of handsets on the network (82 percent).

That last one is a little scary since it shows that there is still a lot of growth left.   Here’s the thing – a lot of this traffic was on cellular networks (as opposed to wi-fi), which is obviously why the telephone guys are upgrading like crazy.  I think the growth is as much about device growth as it is about the services and quality of the content available on them, and it’s this last little bit that I think will continue to drive things.  We tend to think of mobile devices as “second screen” but to me this study is evidence that they’re becoming a primary screen with respect to some content.  That primary usage builds habits, and one wonders when those habits will be reflected in viewing to what are currently primary screens.

Another nugget: the average smartphone will generate 2.7 GB of traffic per month in 2017, an 8-fold increase over the 2012 average of 342 MB per month.  How does that jibe with the bandwidth plans the carriers are selling?  If they’re refusing to sell an “unlimited” plan or throttling speeds over 2GB, how will consumers react?

We can see all of this happening already.  YouTube, for example, gets lots of views and while those views don’t eclipse the numbers that a major TV or cable network can deliver, they certainly are bigger than some of the second and third tier nets.  YouTube is not generally available in homes but is ubiquitous on mobile devices.  As YouTube behaves more like a cable content aggregator, one will see those numbers grow.  That’s what’s driving the numbers Cisco is predicting.  Is it driving you?

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