Smartphone users are responsible for two-thirds of worldwide mobile cellular traffic, despite representing only 13 per cent of all mobile phone users, according to new research from Informa Telecoms & Media.
Average traffic per user will increase by 700 per cent over the next five years as people spend more time browsing the internet on portable devices, Informa said.
Data use in Western Europe will rise from 44MB per month to 736MB per month in 2015, the firm predicted.
Migration of subscribers to higher-speed mobile networks, the rise of flat-rate data plans, and a wider range of smartphones will be the key factors behind the rise.
The iPhone is currently the highest data traffic-generating device with an average of 196MB a month, while the average Android user goes through an estimated 148MB of data a month.
Informa expects the Apple smartphone to retain this lead as it targets premium data users, while Android caters to the low-, mid- and high-end markets.
However, the report noted that Android will not be far behind the iPhone, and that some high-end Android devices have already recorded average traffic per user rates exceeding 200MB a month.
Data usage between now and 2015 will be rise steadily as smartphones become more affordable, said Malik Kamal-Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.
“As traffic increases, a new profile of user will emerge and competition between operators will intensify as they look to provide services to customers. Capping traffic, by preventing data usage is not a solution as it affects the end user experience,” he told V3.co.uk.
“New business models will emerge and one way to generate revenue is to enforce 'quality of service. Networks can charge premium amount for users who want to maintain a consistent bandwidth, or start charging third party service providers a premium to push services to customers.”
Kamal-Saadi also acknowledged that networks are under tremendous pressure not only from customers but from firms such as Apple and Google which are keen to push their services and ecosystems.
Demand for mobile data is already outstripping supply, and poorly performing networks could struggle to cope as tablets grow in popularity, according to James Governor, co-founder of analyst firm RedMonk,
"Just look at the poor quality of service in London, or the struggles AT &T has had in the US with iPhone users," he told V3.co.uk.
"The tablet wave hasn't even really broken yet. We'll definitely see [more] data capping, and/or preferred charging for premium quality of service."
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