Feature Article

May 23, 2012

Nine Percent of Fixed Network Traffic is Driven by Mobiles

A new study from Sandvine has found that mobile devices are starting to affect fixed network traffic demands, at the same time competing with mobile messaging. On the bandwidth front, about nine percent of North America’s fixed network traffic is driven by mobile devices, primarily due to high levels of Netflix and YouTube usage, Sandvine says.

 But there is more to the story; mobiles are starting to be used to consume video as well, which accounts for the much-larger share of bandwidth consumption growth.

“Home roaming”, the term Sandvine used to describe use of mobile devices on home networks, is one reason why median monthly usage in North America jumped 47 percent year over year and mean monthly usage grew 40 percent in the first half of 2012, according to Sandvine.

Revenue displacement is the other issue. During peak period, seven percent of all mobile subscribers are using the messaging application, WhatsApp, a smart phone app that allows subscribers to use their data plan to send text and picture messages without having to pay any SMS or MMS fees.

WhatsApp’s users are sending over one billion messages each day. On one network with approximately one million subscribers, Sandvine observed that when subscribers are actively using WhatsApp, they are sending on average 12 messages per person each hour.  For an average day, Sandvine measured over 7.6 million messages sent.

Therefore, offload of mobile traffic to the fixed network is a bit of a “two-edged sword.” On one hand, growing real-time video traffic gets pushed through the fixed network, not over the air. That probably is an advantage both for consumers, who conserve usage under their bandwidth caps, and therefore end up paying less money for mobile bandwidth, as well as for mobile service providers who can shift significant amounts of congestion-causing traffic off the mobile network, thus providing better user experience overall, and reducing some amount of capital investment.

But that access to bandwidth might also be providing more incentives for users to switch traffic between text messaging, which has a specific incremental cost, over top messaging, which does not.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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