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Monday, September 22, 2008

500MB mobile data a month without rich media

I just looked at the logs for my main mobile data/Internet smartphone. In the last 30 days I've used half a GB - 480MB download, 40MB upload. Probably 70% of that has been over 3G, with the rest on my home WiFi.

And that's without doing anything too fancy - no YouTube, no streaming audio, no VoIPo3G, no P2P. Just normal web browsing (a mix of mobile and "real web" sites), email, RSS, plus a fair amount of Google Maps.

Yes, I'm quite a heavy user - I'll update my RSS feeds while I walk to the tube station & read them on the train, and I'll click through to content-rich web pages that are 500k-1MB each to fully load. And I've downloaded a few PDFs of reports and other documents as well. But I probably have the device in my hand as much as a typical BlackBerry or iPhone owner that I see around London.

And this is with fairly lacklustre 3G/HSDPA performance. I don't think it gets above 1Mbit/s at all, and I'd say its considerably slower most of the time. And on a device which has a UI I'd give 6 or 7 marks out of 10.

My cellphone data usage has gone up roughly 50-fold with the advent of flatrate data, HSDPA and decent browsers.

With an iPhone 3G, or an S-E Xperia or a similar device, with a real 3Mbit/s+ peak speed, I could certainly imagine doing 2GB a month, maybe more if I decided to watch video podcasts on the tube rather than text RSS, or streamed Internet radio. And if I used the phone as a tether for my laptop rather than having a separate dongle, you could probably add another 1-2GB.

OK, I'm probably a top-1% user at the moment. But I'm definitely wondering whether we're going to start seeing some real congestion issues on urban 3G networks sooner than we expect if sales/use of upper-tier devices really kicks in.


Sami said...

Without being able to divulge any details, I can say that there are operators out there who are already struggling quite badly with traffic congestion.

And btw, getting over 1Mbit/second with a mobile device is a challenge at best, no matter what the network is capable of doing; many devices have some pretty sad internal bandwidth limitations..

Ram said...


Is there a number that represents the cost of mobile broadband per MB (that includes cost of RAN, SGSN/GGSN core, backhaul etc.)? I have seen this number somewhere - it is clearly a lot higher compared to the cost of fixed broadband. In spite of this, mobile operators pricing is less than fixed broadband pricing in a lot of countries - Austria, Sweden, Ireland etc. Mobile traffic is growing at 500-1000% year over year while revenue from these products is in the range of 50-75%. Something needs to give at some point - this clearly is not sustainable

Gabe said...

Just checked my log... 2.6 GB down, but only 149 MB sent over 30 days.

Dean Bubley said...

Thanks all.

Ram - yes, I've seen a few suggested numbers, but it's a very difficult equation. In particular, the cost will depend on whether you're filling up existing unusued capacity, incrementing existing capacity with extra raido/backhaul elements, what the core network looks like etc.

It's also worth noting that although mobile broadband headline prices can be << fixed broadband, if you work it out per GB *actually used on average* it's still usually more.


One number I've seen suggests around €0.03/MB for HSPA and perhaps 1/3 of that for LTE.

BBusyB said...

Congestion is not a future worry. its already here.

I've seen it on multiple networks, in public spaces, having a full 3G signal, but with speeds closer to GPRS then 3G.

While Three and T-Mobile have had slowdown, the worst offender to date has been O2.

Some people on the O2 forums have speculated that the network is being hammered by all the iPhone users, as the interface makes it pretty easy to surf pretty rich sites with ease on a mobile device.

And all the offers for Cheap Data cards on both pay monthly and prepaid is probably not helping.