Smartphones Trump Tablets: Analysis of Mobile Data Reveals New Challenges for Telecoms

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Despite the increasing popularity of tablets among consumers, smartphone users have consistently consumed more mobile data than tablet owners for the first time, according to a new report from network solutions firm Arieso.

While the increase of new mobile devices on the market has resulted in an overall boost of data consumption among consumers, smartphone users are leading the pack, as six of the top ten most voracious devices, excluding dongles, were handsets. Three tablets, ranking 4th, 8th and 9th followed, while one phablet also made the list.

“This is pretty counterintuitive, but it seems the capabilities of the newest smartphones – not tablets — are unleashing even greater user demand. Once you move away from raw consumption statistics, the most remarkable finding is the way in which people use smartphones and tablets,” said study author and Arieso CTO, Dr. Michael Flanagan.

From the 125 devices studied, the most demanding was the Apple iPhone 5, with users consuming 50% more data than iPhone 4S users and four times as much data as iPhone 3G users. Yet, not to be outdone, Samsung Galaxy S III users beat out owners of the latest iPhone for uplink data usage, though fell short when compared to Galaxy Note II users for generating the most data.

The 4G Effect

The study also revealed the impact of 4G LTE networks on the market, as more users look toward the high-speed connections for a quick data fix. This year, the hungriest 1% of users consumed 10% less of the downlink data on 3G/UMTS networks, as compared to the 1% that used 50% of the data last year.

“The region we studied this year has recently launched LTE, and we’re already seeing extreme users — especially those with dongles - starting to flock to 4G,” said Flanagan. “In many respects, this is great news — LTE networks are doing their job. But the consumption levels and patterns of LTE use are very different to what operators could expect from 3G. It’s a complex, fluid and increasingly high-stakes situation for operators to deal with. Having performance engineering solutions that can reveal the customer experience across multiple technologies is going to be vital to understanding this going forward.”

As LTE relieves pressure on 3G UMTS networks by introducing a much-needed bandwidth, operators still need to focus on network planning, optimization and performance, as the demand from users evolves even more, urges Arieso. The company also points out that despite the study data originating from a tier-one European operator, the information is relevant to operators around the world due to the relative consumption between device users remaining constant between geographies.

“Wherever they are in the world, operators have to deal with similar challenges created by extreme data use,” concluded Flanagan. “Every year, the situation gets tougher and more complicated. But it is worth remembering two salient points. One, that these challenges only result from our industry’s incredible success in creating devices, services and networks that billions of people want to use every hour of every day. Two, that these puzzles are surmountable through careful attention to the needs of subscribers where they demand services from the network.”

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