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Friday, May 23, 2008

92% of Finnish mobile data traffic emanates from PCs, not phones

Huge thanks to Sami Makelainen, who's posted a fascinating link on Forum Oxford. It's a presentation done by someone at the Helsinki University of Technology, about mobile data usage in Finland, based on an analysis of 4m users' traffic patterns.

Slide 17 jumps out at me.

92% of mobile packet data traffic comes from PCs

Now I've been saying for some time that I was expecting that in 2008, most developed-market operators would see PC-based traffic become more important than that from handsets. And I've written before about the growth of 3G dongles in places like Austria and Sweden (where, unlike Finland, the most popular devices are apparently now Huawei dongles, not Nokia phones).

But I hadn't realised how far this had already gone. And this data is from Sep/Oct 07, and in the last 6 months the real growth in 3G modems has taken place.

This has huge ramifications for how operators buy spectrum, design their networks, think about femtocells and so on. It also means that 3G "mobile networks" are being used mainly for fixed/nomadic purposes. I wonder if that should impact the relative importance and value of IPR around "mobility" vs. "bandwidth".....

One other data point worth noting is that traffic to/from the Internet is 95% of the total. Is it really worth bothering about all that complex QoS, prioritisation, differential pricing, IMS etc for the remaining 5%?


worma said...

Although I agree that this data should put some things in perspective for telcos and vendors, but we should still remember, this is just traffic related data.

For the operators (and hence for vendors), the real thing is not amount of traffic but the money they make from it. So, if a subscriber consumes 9GB of data a month through browsing and pays 10€ flat-rate subscription fee, while consuming 1GB through assorted video call, social networking, music download etc services from the operator, resulting in a revenue generation of 20€, I think it's simple to deduce where the development focus of the industry would be.

Dean Bubley said...


Yes, it's quite possible the focus would be in the wrong place.

They might focus on the services which require an extra €150 device subsidy, huge investment in service and core network development, and poor foresight and risk management which leads to a large number of service failures. And the risk that after all that, people would prefer the same thing but better, from Google or FaceBook.

(What has been the aggregate amount of money wasted on mobile videocalling infrastructure and handsets? It's perpetually pushed by vendors, in defiance of obvious commonsense)

The answer is for operators to attempt to add value to the Web/Internet themselves, so they can offer optimised services for access customers, *and* also derive revenues from non-customers.

The wrong answer is silo'd services, IMS and walled gardens - there's no way they'll generate €20 ARPU monthly.

worma said...

Oh I agree, the mobile operators have repeatedly got it wrong with their silo approach. Just wanted to point out why they, according to 'their approach' would still try to provide better experience for that 5% traffic usage.

But I don't agree that they should work to add value to internet services. Why should they do that? That still makes them a bit-pipe..and they can play that role without doing anything!

I don't really know what is the right answer for them. I can see why they're struggling, and yet hoping against hope to strike gold with their next 'killer app'.