Feature Article

August 01, 2012

LTE Smartphones and LTE Drive Increased Cellular and Wi-Fi Data Usage - Will Rumored Next Generation LTE iPhone Kick it up Even More?

Today, Mobidia Technology, Inc., a provider of device-centric, mobile data solutions, and analyst firm Informa Telecoms & Media, jointly released new research (and the second part of, "Understanding Today's Smartphone Users,") that offers both insights into the use of smartphones and tablets – as well as challenges to a number of standard operator assumptions about their users.

Data for the study was collected in May 2012 from hundreds of thousands of anonymous global smartphone users to determine data-usage trends. The data was collected on an opt-in basis from a sample of over 1.5 million subscribers who have downloaded Mobidia's “My Data Manager” smartphone application.

The data sample represents smartphone users from more than 600 mobile operators worldwide. The data unique insights into subscriber behavior surrounding data usage on all the networks to which smartphones and tablets connect, including mobile cellular (and LTE), roaming and Wi-Fi. The data also differentiates usage patterns and behavior across device types and mobile operating systems.

Mobidia and Informa have developed some very interesting key insights:

  • As expected, Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks and devices are stimulating increased data usage - in some cases up to 50 percent more. The data also demonstrates how the adoption of LTE is encouraging users to migrate their usage of applications that were previously largely restricted to Wi-Fi onto 4G LTE networks.
  • Contrary to common assumptions, iPhone users actually consume more data than Android users in most developed countries. Android users often use more cellular data but when including Wi-Fi and cellular data, iPhone users average 37 percent more data per month than Android. (We’re not in agreement that this is contrary to common assumptions as we would expect iPhone cellular use to remain higher, as the data shows; we aren’t aware that there has ever been a tipping point towards Android here, at least not on a per user basis, though collectively this may be true given Android’s larger market share overall).
  • Intuitively, higher data plans lead to more cellular data usage. However, Wi-Fi usage is surprisingly consistent across users with varying cellular data plans - even those with smaller plans sized below 500 MB.
  • Similar to previous findings using Android-only data, iPhone users in most countries rely on Wi-Fi networks as their primary network connection. In countries such as Germany, Wi-Fi usage can be as much as 10 times that of cellular data usage (an interesting aside here is that this is no doubt due to the fact that most people spend most of their days either in Wi-Fi rich work environments, or within homes equipped with Wi-Fi – it would be interesting to note how Wi-Fi vs. cellular usage changes between the work week and weekends, when users are far more likely to be away from Wi-Fi environments).

"Mobidia's device-centric approach to a comprehensive understanding of wireless subscribers continues to yield a unique view and valuable insights into how people use their smartphones and tablets," says Mobidia VP of Marketing, Chris Hill. "Operators, OEMs, and others in the industry building networks, devices, offers and plans really need to fully understand data usage on all networks, including Wi-Fi, to truly understand how subscribers are using and valuing their technology."

Mobidia's data makes it clear that measurement of cellular-only usage patterns is only part of the picture when it comes to how consumers are using data. In fact, Informa's analysis reveals that a cellular-only measurement of user demand can understate Android and iOS smartphone-originated traffic by a factor of several multiples in the world's most advanced Wi-Fi markets.

"Mobidia's data shows that Wi-Fi is now established as the primary means of data connectivity for a large and growing base of smartphone users across all major operating systems," adds Thomas Wehmeier, Informa principal analyst. "The key for operators to monetize additional cellular usage will be to invest in and enhance the capabilities of existing mobile networks, to identify and prioritize applications that are reliant on the inherent benefits of cellular networks, and, most importantly, to develop pricing strategies that allow operators to realign the price of access with the undoubted value perceived by the vast majority of customers.”

Apple and LTE

Given that the Mobidia-Informa study was conducted in May 2012, it does not necessarily measure any impact the mid-March 2012 release of the new iPad – which delivers LTE capability – will likely have. It will be very interesting to see how the next survey may change because of Apple’s long awaited LTE support.

The next generation iPhone, now rumored to possibly be slated for announcement (if not actual delivery) on September 12, 2012, is also expected to support LTE. Apple has held off on LTE support because LTE is a power hog (for a variety of technical reasons that include the need to simultaneously run two radios on Verizon network devices, and other issues on AT&T networks), and Apple has been concerned about battery life. The technical scenario hasn’t changed but the Android side, which now offers numerous LTE devices doesn’t leave Apple with a competitive choice for a next gen device.

Given the second conclusion drawn above concerning iPhone usage, we can certainly anticipate that LTE will do two things: it will definitely drive huge numbers of new iPhone purchases, and it will likely drive yet another huge spike in wireless data usage. Count on it.

Informa's findings and conclusions based on Mobidia's data are fully outlined in a report titled, "Understanding Today's Smartphone User: Demystifying Data Usage Trends on Cellular & Wi-Fi Networks. Part 2: An Expanded View by Data Plan Size, OS, Device Type and LTE." In addition to Wi-Fi usage data, the report also provides interesting insights into time-of-day usage patterns, top app usage, and tethering across different networks and geographies.

Want to learn more about today’s powerful mobile Internet ecosystem? Then be sure to attend the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct. 2-5 2012, in Austin, TX. Co-sponsored by TMC Partner Crossfire Media the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo provides unmatched networking opportunities and a robust conference program representing the mobile ecosystem. The conference not only brings together the best and brightest in the wireless industry, it actually spans the communications and technology industry. For more information on registering for the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo click here.

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Tony Rizzo has spent over 25 years in high tech publishing and joins MobilityTechzone after a stint as Editor in Chief of Mobile Enterprise Magazine, which followed a two year stretch on the mobile vendor side of the world. Tony also spent five years as the Director of Mobile Research for 451 Research. Before his jump into mobility Tony spent a year as a publishing consultant for CMP Media, and served as the Editor in Chief of Internet World, NetGuide and Network Computing. He was the founding Technical Editor of Microsoft Systems Journal.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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