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Satisfying the hunger for mobile data

Tech and Innovation

Posted on November 6, 2009

3 min read

It’s the time of year when telco managers and web enthusiasts alike turn their eyes and ears towards the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. I thought I’d sift through the Summit’s presentations to see what the hot button topics are this year. One of the more interesting keynotes I stumbled upon was on the subject of mobile internet.

The presentation (embedded below) is numbers-heavy but does outline where mobile internet is going. How many times on your daily commute or weekend wanderings do you see someone on their mobile? Unless the mobile is held to their ear, they are likely one of the millions of Australians checking their email, updating their social media pages or watching mobile TV. Mobile internet usage is exploding.  I’m not only referring to our healthily-budding market here in Australia, but more so the global boom in this area. Next generation smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone are a key part of this growth, driving consumers to data centric applications to quench their thirst for real-time information and rich streaming media. The proliferation of USB and semi-permanent 3G data access has also pushed mobile internet to the forefront and, in some cases, is replacing traditional fixed line connectivity. Often when I travel it’s not unusual for me to take a USB modem and my phone for data use. As a result my personal consumption has ballooned over the last two years. As infrastructure supported faster speeds, I found I was no longer uploading a picture or two, but streaming videos and downloading large files on the move.

I’m obviously not alone. Demonstrating just how quickly mobile data is growing, AT&T’s mobile data traffic has increased by 4,932% over the past three years! The bulk of all this growth comes from the general browsing of websites, but social networking and mobile platforms (think Facebook and Apple Inc’s app ecosystems) are fundamentally changing ways people communicate with one another and consuming media. It’s not only consumers that are capitalising. Developers and vendors now also have more ways than ever to reach us, spurring a rapid cycle of innovation, growth and consumption. In fact, I would say nearly half of the time the mobile is in my hand; I’m using it as a non-verbal communication device.

With this intensification of take-up, carriers will have some key hurdles to overcome to keep up with demand. Take a quick glance at real-time social media sites like Twitter. They reveal the frustrations of customers toward some Australian wireless carriers who have been hit with crippling performance issues due to this explosive growth. A study by Gomez Inc Link shows user experience (“UX”), core to driving adoption and usage, is currently lagging well behind the market’s drive for data.

So, with the globe hungrier than ever for mobile data, will people be able to rationalise the trade-off between carrier performance and the costs of mobile internet? How do you find your mobile internet experience and where do you see your usage going?

Economy + Internet Trends – Web 2.0 Summit: San Francisco, October 20, 2009
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