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3G Wireless Data Usage Set To Jump Nearly 10x By 2011

The research from iGR shows that in 2006 all mobile data customers sent and received about 0.73 terabytes of data per month. iGR expects that number to climb to 6.94 terabytes in in the next four years. That's a lot of bytes flying through the air. Will the networks be able to handle it all?
The research from iGR shows that in 2006 all mobile data customers sent and received about 0.73 terabytes of data per month. iGR expects that number to climb to 6.94 terabytes in in the next four years. That's a lot of bytes flying through the air. Will the networks be able to handle it all?iGR reached its conclusions by looking at several different types of users today. Light, medium, and heavy mobile data subscribers had their monthly data analyzed to show what their usage amounted to. Light users sent and received 5.92 megabytes per month, medium users 17.66 megabytes , and heavy users 44.4 megabytes. In examining my own wireless bills, I was surprised to see that I only consume about 12 megabytes per month surfing the mobile Web and sending/receiving mobile e-mail using my cell phone. These same two activities were the most common uses that iGR discovered during the course of its research, as well as virtual private network (VPN) logins and instant messaging.

iGR's research didn't differentiate between mobile phone usage and AirCard usage, and in my mind that skews that data a bit. We have to assume that the VPN logins are taking place with laptops and AirCards, though, and not mobile phones. I've been using an AirCard for about a month. Since I haven't received my first bill yet, I don't know where I fall in wireless data usage via that type of connection. Using the AirCard to connect to Verizon's 3G mobile broadband network takes up a lot more bandwidth than connecting to that same network via a mobile phone. I typically use the AirCard about 12 hours per week. So while I use about 12 megabytes per month just via my mobile phone, I have to assume I use far more with the AirCard.

However it is that users connect to 3G data networks, iGR is confident that mobile data use is only going to increase. I'd have to agree.

But are the current networks able to handle that type of increase in usage? How well will they scale? What sort of capital expenditure will network operators have to undertake to meet the growing demand, and how will that effect pricing of mobile data plans? We've already seen the major network operators drop the price of their all-you-can-eat data plans. How much lower can they go?