The next time your wireless provider tries to up the cost of your data plan so that they can pay for more wireless spectrum, you literally have very few people you can blame for this. As it turns out, a mere 1% of (presumably) smartphone users are consuming half of all downloaded mobile data. From a new study released today from Arieso:
Fuelled by new smartphones, apps and services consumer demand for mobile data is accelerating beyond expectations, finds a new report from Arieso. 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 capacity issues plaguing mobile operators around the world will worsen in 2012.
In case you need a face to sneer at when your wireless provider passes the cost onto you, just look around for the nearest person with an iPhone 4S in hand because they are the hungry, hungry hippos of data usage. The report "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."
So back to those climbing wireless bills you may see sometime later this year. It's Econ 101, really: more demand necessitates more supply and that's gotta come from somewhere; at least it does if the suppliers wanna keep their demanders happy and satiated. In terms of the cell phone business, that supply will come either from developing more sophisticated technology capable of bearing the heavy data load or by annexing more wireless spectrum from the existing market.
“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”.
This elucidates more of the backstory perhaps as to why AT&T and Verizon spent 2011 trying to broaden their shares of the wireless market. Maybe if AT&T takes another stab at acquiring T-Mobile later this year, they'll be able to rely on data like this to make their case to the FCC so as to patch up the leaky parts of their argument. At any rate, without some kind of solution in the very near future, Flanagan says that "operators risk delivering a sub-par quality of experience to customers" and that "it's critical that operators redouble their efforts to limit the impact of this inevitable squeeze.”
If the impending "capacity crunch" problem isn't addressed, you should start learning some anger-management breathing exercises immediately because soon you'll likely be waiting longer than usual to stream those podcasts you're so fond of.