Why mobile data consumption is about to explode in emerging markets

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New data from GSMA Intelligence indicates users on LTE networks consume far more mobile data than their counterparts using 3G, my colleague Kevin Fitchard reported this week. Verizon’s LTE network hosted 64 percent of total data traffic during the third quarter of 2013, the industry organization noted, despite the fact that only 38 percent of the carrier’s connections were LTE. And LTE users in South Korea consume almost twice as much data per month as HSPA users, partly because those 4G users are less likely to look for Wi-Fi connections.

That’s logical, of course: Just as the transition from fixed-line dial-up service to broadband spurred huge increases in data usage at home and in the workplace, the speed and relatively low cost of LTE is sure to boost consumption. But LTE networks are only just beginning to be built out in China and India, which will become the two largest markets for LTE-enabled smartphones in the next several years. If carriers in those markets can figure out ways to deliver consistent LTE service at affordable prices, data consumption there will dwarf what we’ve seen in more mature markets.

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