AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint have all been running constant commercials lately where they are essentially battling about who can provide you with more data for your cell phone plan. While having a ton of data can leave consumers with a worry free state-of-mind whenever they need to look for something on their phone, it is worth mentioning that according to Nielsen, the average consumer uses about 733mb a month. While there is a lot of talk about how much data usage is going to increase in the coming years with the expansion of 4G networks, I question this strictly based on access to Wi-Fi, which is greatly increasing as well.
Jim Rapoza recently published an article about the connected stadium and how networking is providing football fans in over 20 stadiums with the same mobile experience in stadium that they are used to receiving in their homes. This is just one example of how access to Wi-Fi is becoming more the standard than the exception. Currently I can get Wi-Fi pretty much anywhere; at work, in my coffee shop, on the train, even while getting a haircut or eating dinner.
The average person uses far less data than they actually believe they do. I recently spoke with a friend who believed unlimited data was essential to her phone plan and that is why she would never leave her original wireless provider, but truth be told she uses just over 1GB a month. That isn’t to say we don’t use our phones a lot, because we certainly do, but a surprisingly high percentage of the computing we do on our phones is done with a Wi-Fi connection that is not taxing our wireless data plan. This shows a disconnect in perception vs reality, where we believe if we use our phones a lot we must use a lot of data, but often that is not the case.
Now this also isn’t to say that some people do not use a lot of data, because there are certainly some people who are constantly on the go, streaming music and watching the latest YouTube video, all without a Wi-Fi connection, but those people are not most of us. Truth be told, even if you have an addiction to Spotify and enjoy watching the occasional YouTube video, you still probably only need about 2GB a month of data. Now if you’ve been known to watch an entire movie on a 4G connection, then yes, go for the jumbo 30GB plan, but that frankly just isn’t how most people are using their phone, at least today.
Traditional internet providers are getting behind the idea of enabling more Wi-Fi access as well. Comcast is looking to expand it’s hotspots to eight million by the end of 2014. This will allow their customers to access to Wi-Fi regardless of where they go. This is not to say having a data plan will become obsolete, but that the expanding availability of Wi-Fi is definitely worth thinking about when you sign up for your next wireless contract or when you scoff because your company’s phone plan only offers you 2GB of data a month.
One thing that has only recently come to the fore, but has an impact on data usage is VoLTE. Keep in mind, if calls become digitized, and therefore bits of data, data usage for all users goes up. I could see in the future where unlimited voice and text goes away in lieu of a pure “data” charge per carrier. On the other hand, it may turn out that users will be charged access rights to a given carrier IF wifi usage continues to increase and voice handover from wifi to cellular (ie VoLTE)becomes more pervasive.
The VoLTE argument is interesting and tha
The VoLTE argument is interesting and you are right it could have a significant impact on data usage for many users. I do think carriers will have to evaluate how much they charge for data before that happens though. Also the significant amount of feature phone users that still exist make me how far into the future the pure “data” charge per carrier model is. I would think this will be a relevant conversation in the next 5 years but not quite yet.
Agreed with all the points mentioned in the comments mentioned ahead of mine. Instant messaging and the need to stay connected with the world is the need of the hour- technology advancement is responsible for all of these.