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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Less than 1% 3G traffic from smartphones

A month back we got the stats from Finland that showed that 92% of 3G data traffic was generated by PCs, 4% from Symbian smartphones and 4% from all other sources.

I've got some more anecdotal data today from another advanced cellular operator (from someone who manages the 3G radio network). He said that his traffic was made up of:

- c70% HSDPA / HSUPA cards & USB dongles in PCs
- c20% older WCDMA 3G cards in PCs
- 8% from fixed-wireless 3G terminals (routers & wireless backup etc)
<1% from all handsets

Now presumably this excludes a bit of 2G data from Blackberries & unlocked iPhones and ordinary WAP phones, but it still points to the fact that from a radio network (and therefore capex investment & spectrum & dimensioning point of view), operators should care about 2 main things:

- Circuit voice & SMS traffic from phones
- Packet data traffic from PCs

I had an argument with vendor yesterday about whether this picture will change as people adopt more smartphones, but I really can't see it migrating much for several years, especially given that 3G dongles are still just at an early phase of growth. I reckon that a small number of PCs & iPhone-type devices generate enough traffic to absolutely swamp everything else for some considerable time.

I'll draw a graphic when I get a chance, but basically there's an inverted pyramid with 10% of devices generating 90% of the traffic - and I think that the skew is likely to get worse, before it maybe evens out in a few years' time with the adoption of more iPhone-grade devices.


Anonymous said...

Dean, agree with your comments totally. It will be interesting to see if iPhone changes it too much. In some cases operators are do not want it, didn't Steve Jobs announce that files > 10MB will be only available for download over WiFi. Sounds like a concession AT&T wanted to me....


teletester said...

Dean, finally some sanity in the realm of 3G. Thanks for that. My MVNO experiences show that no more than 1% of the mass customer base actually buys into flatfee propositions. Thus, even with differences between operators taken into account, such a percentage cannot compete with PC usage. A PC uses at least 10 times more data, so smartphone sales need to go way up to reach the tipping point. From a perspective of raising ARPU however, smartphone users do add to business!

As for the vendor: note that people that have smartphones typically have several other devices to go online as well. Therefore, raising smartphone traffic implicates that operators can offer real usability in a highly mobile environment.