Feature Article

Free eNews Subscription>>
April 16, 2014

98 Percent of Mobile Network Sessions are Data

If you are like me, the headline was one of those, “So who knew?” moments. It should have been intuitive given how few calls I make versus how many text, emails, etc., I initiate. It also should have made sense from watching my kids and their friends who almost never make calls but constantly have their faces glued to their screens with fingers and thumbs at the ready. That said, the number is still impressive, even if it is relating to sessions and not to revenues.

Yes, it is a data world. This leads to two somewhat albeit rhetorical questions. First is, whether it is any wonder that mobile operators are busy trying to figure out the best ways to monetize the fact that there are so many data sessions? The second, given that this is not exactly a surprise and despite the speed at which this has happened, were operators ready? We have already seen the session shift make the industry move away from the all you can eat plans and experiments with a host of new business models. However, that second question is problematic, especially as 4G LTE network deployments and the Internet of Things (IoT) pick up steam.   

So where did the information on that 98 percent come from?  It came from the just released annual State of the Radio Access Network (RAN) Survey, by customer experience systems and services solutions provider Amdocs. 

It is already a brave new world

Things are moving fast and are likely to move faster. Amdocs looked at information from 100,000 mobile devices from the busiest network locations around the world in the past twelve months, analyzed more than 4 million voice and data connections.

Below is what they found based on detailed analysis of information about RAN activities with Amdocs commentary included:

  • The share of network traffic from data has grown to 98 percent – up from 90 percent in the previous 12-month period.  The growth demonstrates subscribers’ overwhelming use of smartphones and tablets to consume and share content. 
  • Data demand leads to an increase in dropped calls: The stress placed on networks has led to an increase in customer experience issues as network demand grows, with dropped data and voice calls increasing by 121 percent. The most stressed locations showed a 17 percent dropped call rate. While these figures give a stark reminder of the ever-increasing load carried by the RAN, the level to which individual customers were impacted often depended on their choice of mobile handset.
  • LTE (4G) improves customer experience but does not increase data traffic exponentially: The time to establish a LTE data session is less than half that of 3G, delivering a data experience that is much closer to home broadband. Although LTE drives some increase in data consumption, high bandwidth data consumption (e.g., video) did not increase, indicating that usage patterns, potentially governed by data plans, remain little different from 3G networks.
  • Data traffic becomes the primary source of subscriber issues: Top customer frustrations include: Lack of data coverage (47 percent); monthly limits (30 percent) and download costs (16 percent), according to On Device Research on behalf of Amdocs, October 2013.
  • Voice grew too, customers move indoors: Despite voice calls also increasing by 16 percent, the greatest shift was to indoor usage - the period saw an increase of mobile phone usage in-building by 33 percent.  With indoor data users experiencing up to a 50 per cent drop in data throughput; this shift will have a significant impact on customer experience.

 “The research shows that the move to LTE/ 4G provides an opportunity to improve the customer experience without exponentially increasing data demand,” said Rebecca Prudhomme, vice president of product and solutions marketing at Amdocs. “Service providers need to address this challenge by implementing planning and optimization solutions to manage an increasingly active subscriber base that not only wants to consume data but produce and share it in real time.”

Amdocs rightfully draws the conclusion from its research that mobile operators really do need to have a sense of urgency for investing in next generation OSS and BSS solutions, as well as the obvious infrastructure upgrades, if they are to accommodate the shifting nature and explosion of data traffic. Reliance on older systems and solutions that were purpose-built for a non-IP voice-centric world is not an option for staying competitive.  This goes for assuring the quality and performance of voice and real-time video as well as data. 

Opportunities to create a sustainable competitive advantage are going to go to fast movers, who can satisfy the demands of an increasingly fickle and digitally adept customer base. Mobile operators are no doubt aware of what Amdocs has documented here. Indeed, we have seen reports in the past year about just how much traffic is now being consumed by people with tablets watching Netflix. 

What the industry needs to avoid, and build into its business models, is the sticker shock reported by The Telegraph, which is big buzz on the Internet of U.K. Math teacher Katie Bryan downloading a Neil Diamond greatest hits album from ITunes while on holiday in South Africa.  She paid €8.99 ($15.10) for the album, but upon returning home found her U.K. bank account had more than €2,000 ($3,359.33) overdrawn thanks to a direct debit by her mobile service provider Orange she got hit with a debit charge of €2,609.01 ($4,382.66).

Data plans need to be flexible and user friendly, but to do so, older support systems need to be updated or replaced, and yes there is a real need to do this sooner rather than later.  If nothing else, the Amdocs report should serve as a wake-up call. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

FOLLOW MobilityTechzone

Subscribe to MobilityTechzone eNews

MobilityTechzone eNews delivers the latest news impacting technology in the Wireless industry each week. Sign up to receive FREE breaking news today!
FREE eNewsletter