Feature Article

June 11, 2012

New 'Mobile' Devices Impose Order of Magnitude New Bandwidth Demands

One might argue about how additional mobile bandwidth can be supplied, but it is hard to argue that more capacity is unnecessary, as some believe. Ericsson, for example, points out that smartphones, including the Apple iPhone, Android and Windows devices, typically generatefive to 10 times more traffic than other “low-traffic” devices. 

In fact, the changing nature of devices supported by mobile networks accounts for much of the explosion in bandwidth demand, though users desire to consume video arguably drives much of the new demand, across device types. Smartphones are one example.

And, of course, the big problem is that the use of smartphones is becoming the new normal. Ericsson estimates that high-traffic device share reached around 50 percent at the end of 2011, and will represent the vast majority of devices in use by 2017.

Some believe that will be case even in the developing world. And smartphones are only part of the problem. Overall, mobile data is expected to have almost doubled during 2011, and as is typically the case, mobile PCs dominate traffic in most mobile networks today.

Smartphone traffic is growing faster, but most users consume vastly more data when they access mobile networks to support a tablet or PC applications, compared to smartphone apps. It isn’t that the smartphone apps themselves necessarily consume less bandwidth, more that the activities people engage in on PCs and tablets consume more bandwidth.

As Ericsson says, mobile broadband connections used to support 3G routers (1 Gbyte to 16 GBytes per month) represent the largest bandwidth consumption. Mobile bandwidth used to support PCs tends to range from 1 Gbyte to 7 GBytes per month. 

So far, tablets represent load of about 300 Mbytes to 1600 MBytes a month, while mobile phones represent only about 30 Mbytes to 230 MBytes per month.

Machine to machine (M2M) traffic is very small, with an average volume below 10 MBytes per subscription in all measured networks, Ericsson says. One reason is that most M2M traffic consists of low bandwidth apps such as security surveillance, fleet management, andpoint of sale terminals.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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