Alcatel-Lucent: LTE drives 168% higher daily mobile data consumption

North American LTE users gobble up on average 46 MB per day of mobile data, or 168 percent more than 3G users, who consume 17 MB per day, according to research from Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU).

Interestingly, the increased usage by LTE subscribers does not coincide with a corresponding increase in signaling and airtime. "Our studies uncovered that while volume increased, airtime only increased by 26 percent, and signaling posted a mere 13 percent increase," said Patrick Tan, Alcatel-Lucent general manager, network intelligence, in a blog post.

The vendor based its conclusions on information from its mobile network analytics product, Wireless Network Guardian, which allowed it to compare volume, application usage, signaling and devices across 3G and LTE technologies.

Volume Per User Per Day - Chart

Mobile application volume per user per day - in MB *
Alcatel-Lucent 9900 Wireless Network Guardian, network analytics

Looking at the data presented in the blog, it is unclear whether the fact that LTE networks are in general seven times faster than 3G is apparently encouraging LTE customers to make more use of various applications or whether the customers who adopt LTE are already power users. Tan indicates the latter may be the most accurate portrayal.

"Early 4G/LTE adopters tend to be more technology savvy," he wrote, noting these users also gravitate toward fully featured LTE smartphones. "They begin to use mobile data in much the same way they use broadband delivered over fixed networks or Wi-Fi," Tan added.

LTE users surpass 3G users in volume across each application category, including: video, which encompasses apps for Netflix, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) YouTube and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) FaceTime; social networking, including Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Google Plus and Twitter; and mixed content sharing, which includes peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic such as BitTorrent, cloud-based services such as iCloud or Dropbox and similar storage and sharing applications.

Video applications generated 21.4 MB of daily LTE volume and 14.5 MB of daily 3G volume. "Ranking applications by daily volume share instead of popularity, about half of the top 10 applications in LTE networks are for video," Tan said.

In terms of specific application adoption rates, YouTube is 20 percent more popular on LTE networks than 3G networks, which Tan noted "is significant given the bandwidth hungry nature of this application."

Mobile operators are struggling to address increasing data consumption over their networks, and the challenges are likely to grow, leading carriers to adopt a variety of new service plans. Tan predicts that during the next 12 months, soft caps on usage, shared-usage plans and other new billing approaches will gain wider adoption.

For more:
- see this Alcatel-Lucent blog post

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