20 Comments

Summary:

Mobile data traffic outnumbered voice traffic for the first time last December, according to wireless equipment vendor Ericsson. Worryingly, that data traffic was generated by an estimated 400 million smartphones compared with 4.6 billion mobile subscribers making voice calls. What happens when everyone has a smartphone?

Mobile data bits traveling around the world outnumbered voice traffic for the first time during December of 2009, according to wireless equipment vendor Ericsson. Worryingly, that data traffic was generated by an estimated 400 million smartphones set against 4.6 billion mobile subscribers making voice calls. What happens when everyone has a smartphone?

Ericsson measured traffic across networks around the world and discovered that once data traffic surpassed 140,000 terabytes per month, those bytes outnumbered the traffic generated by voice calls. Data traffic grew 280 percent during each of the last two years, and Ericsson expects it to double annually over the next five (see Cisco’s estimates here). Already traffic in 3G networks has surpassed that of 2G networks. Note that in India and China, the world’s two most populous countries, 3G networks are only now coming online or have yet to do so.

Ericsson credits/blames social networking as accounting for “a large percentage of mobile data traffic” consumption, although video seems to consume many more bytes. Ericsson notes that 200 mobile operators in 60 countries are deploying and promoting the social networking site’s mobile products, with over 100 million active users accessing Facebook through their mobile devices. But Facebook is more an example of why we want always-on, always accessible broadband (we talk to our friends now, not merely via voice, but with pictures, texts and status updates) than it is the cause of the data deluge.

Here’s a video from Ericsson talking yesterday about this historic moment (of three months ago):

Related GigaOM Pro research: Metered Mobile Data Is Coming and Here’s How (sub req’d)

  1. Really interesting stats. Thanks.
    There is no edge! The smartphone is the computer. And the next few years are set to be among the most interesting ever in consumer tech.

    Share
  2. [...] Stacey Higginbotham writes, "Worryingly, that data traffic was generated by an estimated 400 million smartphones set against [...]

    Share
  3. [...] Source: Mobile Milestone: Data Surpasses Voice Traffic – GigaOM [...]

    Share
  4. [...] Stacey Higginbotham writes, “Worryingly, that data traffic was generated by an estimated 400 million smartphones set [...]

    Share
  5. [...] Stacey Higginbotham writes, “Worryingly, that data traffic was generated by an estimated 400 million smartphones set [...]

    Share
  6. [...] Higginbotham / GigaOM:Mobile Milestone: Data Surpasses Voice Traffic  —  Mobile data bits traveling around the world outnumbered voice traffic for the [...]

    Share
  7. Does the data metered in this calculation include pure data traffic or also VOIP data (which is basically voice converted to digital and transported over IP)? – Arunabh Das

    Share
  8. Stacey wrote: “Worryingly, that data traffic was generated by an estimated 400 million smartphones set against 4.6 billion mobile subscribers making voice calls.”

    I just read the source – it says “400 Million mobile broadband subscriptions” — Stacey, let’s not confuse our mobile data crunchers here.

    Statistic of one: I use up to 200MB a day on my 3G stick and only ~300MB a month on my iPhone. Smartphones are likely not the source of most of that data usage.

    Share
  9. [...] Mobile Milestone: Data Surpasses Voice Traffic – GigaOM [...]

    Share
  10. [...] main downside of this growth is that it looks like carriers will be moving towards tiered mobile broadband pricing in the future where you pay for what you use. I always dreamed that those days were over when I [...]

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post