Study: Top 1% of global users generate half of all mobile data traffic

It's become conventional wisdom in the wireless world that a small percentage of users are consuming excessive amounts of bandwidth. However, that trend seems to be accelerating, with the top 1 percent of mobile data users worldwide generating 50 percent of all network data traffic, according to a new research report from network technology firm Arieso.

Arieso, which advises carriers in the United States, Europe and Asia, as well as companies including Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Nokia Siemens Networks, found that a small percentage users are using more and more data than they ever have before. For example, according to Arieso, in 2009, the top 3 percent of heavy users produced 40 percent of mobile data traffic, and now that top 3 percent generates 70 percent of traffic.

The top 1 percent, according to Arieso, are heavy laptop and USB modem users, with 64 percent of the traffic in the top 1 percent of heaviest users coming from USB modems. Thirty-three percent of the traffic from the top 1 percent was generated by smartphones and 3 percent came from tablets.

The increasing use of mobile data is nothing new to carriers, of course, which have instituted a variety of techniques to handle the crush, including usage-based data pricing, throttling down users' downlink speeds when they exceed data caps, offloading to Wi-Fi networks and deploying picocells. Almost half of the mobile operators that were surveyed in a November report from mobile service optimization company Allot that offer unlimited mobile data plans also throttle the speeds. However, new techniques may be coming this year to help ease the data burden, including multi-device data plans that allow users to share a bucket of data between multiple devices and subscribers.

Arieso also looked at data consumed by specific devices. The firm found that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 4S users consume three times more data than iPhone 3G uses did and twice as much data as iPhone 4 users did. Arieso said part of the reason may be the introduction of Siri, Apple's digital personal assistant for the iPhone 4S. However, iPhone 4S users are also likely downloading and using more applications than earlier smartphone owners did, fitting with a general trend among users across platforms. Click here for details.

For more:
- see this release
- see this New York Times article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article
- see this Fortune article

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