A new study by Actix reveals how the dynamic interplay of people, places and devices is impacting mobile networks across the world. Unsurprisingly, smartphones on 3G networks spend almost 85% of their active time generating data traffic, and only 10% of it on voice. The radio access network is responsible for between 80-85% of poor quality voice whilst data sessions in congested areas often fall below video-ready speeds.
The average smartphone in a person’s pocket is 18 months old and those with newer phones generate much more data. Apple subscribers use more data and more data per session than Android, with Blackberry users consuming 50% less data than Android. In other words, if existing Blackberry customers switched to Apple or Android, mobile traffic would increase by at least 20%.
Only one in five of locations are responsible for 80% of network traffic and just 5% are responsible for over half of traffic, with these high traffic areas typically less than 30-100 m2 in size. In addition, 15% of locations are responsible for 85% of all customer experience problems.
Data rates drop off by as much as 50% when users go indoors, and the area also affects the demand placed on the network. For example, social media usage is highest in tourist areas, where data connections are busiest between 20:00 and 21:00.
On the other hand, many locations are busy a lot of the time, but areas with the highest levels of demand peak only for two short periods each day, such as transport hubs and central business districts.
Basic handsets (feature phones) are rapidly losing market share and alternative devices such as dongles, tablets and Mi-Fi are a minority. Mature operators are seeing market penetration reaching 66% and network data suggests over 80% of all downloaded data is from smartphones.
While smartphones make 3-10 data connections per hour of use, 60-70% of data sessions are less than 50 Kbytes in size and Actix estimates less than 30% of these data sessions are user initiated. Every new generation of smartphone adds 20% more data per subscriber and smartphones released in 2012 generate 2.5 times more traffic per subscriber than those released in 2009.
When it comes to tablets, their usage on mobile networks is miniscule compared to smartphones, despite around 115 million tablet devices having been sold according to Forrester Research.