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Smartphone Use Pushing Mobile Data Demand Skyward

Smartphone use (particularly iPhones) is addictive and contagious.  Sit down in a public place – a coffee shop, a bar, a book store – and chances are you’ll see someone whip out their phone.  Within minutes, sometimes just seconds, someone else will follow.   I’ve been out with friends and seen three out of five people at a table all “plugged in.”   They were texting, gaming, checking emails, scanning news.   Funny thing is, not one of them was actually using the phone to talk.

Phones have become our anytime, all-the-time, information portals and the trend isn’t slowing down.

In 2009, smartphone ownership accounted for 17% of the approximately 234m US mobile devices.  That was up from just 11% the year before (comScore data).

These users, according to separate research released by Cisco, accounted for more than 90 petabytes of mobile data traffic per month.  That’s roughly equivalent to the data capacity 23milion DVD’s would take up.  

By 2014, Cisco expects the data demand to multiply another 39 times.

A recent New York Times article pointed to anecdotes and more research further confirming the same trends: mobile data use is on the rise. 

Referenced in the Times’ piece, the CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade association, said that in 2009 the number of text messages increased 50% nationwide.  During the same period, the average length of mobile calls dropped to 1.81 minutes, down from 2.27 in 2008.

The facts are clear:  the number of landlines is shrinking, smartphone use is on the rise and data driven mobile activity is accelerating at an exponential pace.  Times are changing.

It makes you wonder whether mobile carriers are worried about their infrastructure or rethinking their pricing strategies.  Somebody’s going to be paying for the increased loads, it’s just a question of who.

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