LTE attracts the data hogs, but what about the piglets?

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Jan 23, 2014

Of course we’re talking mobile data usage. JDSU’s Location Intelligence Business Unit (formerly Arieso) has been tracking devices and categories of user for four years now. The research always shows huge apparent usage disparities - forget the 80/20 rule we’re talking all and nothing.

For instance the research previously discovered that just one per cent of 3G users accounted for a full 50 per cent of all the 3G downlink data requested.

You might think that the introduction of LTE, prominent in this year's report, might attenuate that in some way. After all, LTE adoptors are likely to count amongst their number a high proportion of 3G data hogs moving up, as it were, to get at even more data. In that circumstance you might expect to see the LTE data hogs representing, say, 3 per cent... and you’d be wrong.

With LTE, 50 per cent of the downlink data is requested by just 0.1 per cent of the LTE users (10 times as extreme as 3G). Meanwhile, the 3G hog factor remains the same: just 1 per cent gobbling 50 per cent of the downlink.

According to lead researcher Dr. Michael Flanagan, CTO of Mobility for the Network and Service Enablement, “The faster the speeds that mobile operators provide, the more consumers swallow it up and demand more,” he says. That you might expect but, “ for 4G users to consistently exhibit behaviour 10 times more extreme than 3G users well after launch constitutes a seismic shift in the data landscape. This has important ramifications for future network designs.”

With miscreant numbers that small, says Flanagan, it may even be possible to use individual small cell placements to ease the burden.

“We are creatures of habit so it’s actually possible to track an individual’s movements,” he said, “and place a small cell or two where the downlink behaviour is greatest.”

That seems like a lot of trouble and expense to me. My own (patent pending) solution is to remotely reconfigure the data hog’s SIM so that it spoofs a competitor’s network into connecting him (let’s just assume it’s a ‘him’). He keeps paying you, you pay the competitor, nobody suspects a thing, problem solved.

There are a host of other data consumption disparities too. An iPhone (rather than an Android) owned by a data hog is naturally the biggest downlink consumer. iPhone 5s users demand 7 times as much data as iPhone 3G users in developed markets and 20 times as much in developing markets.

What the report doesn’t seem to touch on much is the dynamic at the other end of the inverted distribution curve. Presumably, for 0.1 per cent to be gobbling 50 per cent of the data there must be a considerable percentage at the other end not using any data at all. My own research (admittedly a tiny sample) indicates that there are quite a few of these data piglets around. They buy the iPhone because to be seen with anything else is deemed a bit embarassing. Then they just call and text.

Perhaps they should be offered rebates before mobile operators are done for misselling?

Follow the writer on Twitter @ ian_TTV

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