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3G Laptop connections and inexpensive data plans to blame, researchers say.
The top one percent of the world’s mobile Internet users consumes over half the world's data, and global mobile data use is expected to multiply ten times over the next four years, The New York Times reported.
A British research firm called Arieso conducted the study of 1.1 million mobile broadband users. The report found that laptops using 3G cards and dongles to connect are the heaviest draw on global traffic. A summary of the report's findings concludes: "One thing is clear: the capacity issues plaguing mobile operators around the world will worsen in 2012." The report goes on to note that compared to the iPhone 3G benchmark, which it calls 100 percent in its study, wireless modems such as the ones found in 3G-capable laptops consume a shocking 2654 percent more data.
There is a geographic disparity, too. Northern European countries like Sweden, home to Ericsson, and Finland, home to Nokia, consume the most. The average Finn downloads over a gigabyte of data per month, which is about ten times more than other Europeans, according to the Times.
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Why? Different mobile plans across the world makes it easier – and cheaper – for some to surf the web wirelessly. The Times reported:
About 35 percent of Finns also use mobile laptop modems and dongles, or modems in a USB stick; one operator, Elisa, offers unlimited data plans for as little as 5 euros, or $6.40, a month.
The rapid proliferation of internet-connected smart phones has also drawn on carriers' networks. TechCrunch reports that on January 13 China Mobile, carrier for 600 million customers, will release the iPhone 4S - named as the worst mobile phone data hog in Arieso's report.
In the US, mobile data users have long seen their speed throttled if they overuse "unlimited" data plans. AT&T discontinued its unlimited plan, which it offered when the iPhone was first introduced in 2007, and sometimes throttles those who overuse data. Of all the US carriers that sell iPhones, only Sprint offers an unlimited data plan. In another finding, the report noted that iPhone 4S users downloaded 276 percent more data than iPhone 3G users.
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The authors of the report suspect this may be due to Apple’s Siri voice feature on the iPhone 4S. The Times reported: "The growth of cloud computing-based applications like iTunes and other cloud services, which use the mobile network to connect consumers with remote computers, may also be a factor." Michael Flanagan, an officer at Arieso, said in the Times story:
“Some people may draw the parallel to Occupy Wall Street, and I’ve already heard comments about ‘Occupy the Downlink,’ ” Mr. Flanagan said. “But the situations are very different, and the mobile situation doesn’t break down along socioeconomic lines.”