Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Device Usage Profiles: "Tethering" is a Big Deal

If you want to know why “tethering” of mobile devices is such a big issue for mobile service providers, consider that mobile PCs, including those which might be tethered to a Mi-Fi device or use a smart phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot feature, can use between 1 GByte and 7 Gbytes worth of data each month, according to new data provided by Ericsson.

A smart phone, by way of contrast, might use about 500 Mbytes a month. So demand-sensitive mobile networks might well be leery of encouraging use of the network by devices that create an order of magnitude greater demand than a typical smart phone.

At some level, even though mobile service providers might like to have the additional revenue and accounts mobile PC connections represent, it is inherently more difficult to maintain a user experience free of cap overage fees, which irritate users.

You might argue that service providers can simply offer bigger buckets of usage, but some might argue that will confuse many users.

Mobile PCs have the highest average monthly traffic volume per subscription over 3G networks (global average at 1 Gbyte to 2 GBytes), followed by tablets at 250 Mbytes to 800 MBytes. Smart phones typically use only 80 Mbytes to  600 MBytes.

The point is that a 4-Gbyte or 5-Gbyte data plan so outstrips typical usage of smart phone and tablet users that there is little chance most people would ever be faced with an unpleasant overage charge. That clearly is not the case for PCs connected to mobile networks, which rather easily can consume all of a 4-Gbyte or 5-Gbyte data plan.

Average monthly data traffic varies significantly between different types of devices, according to a new Ericsson report on mobile bandwidth and trends.

Another observation might be that “overage” and “breakage” are significant contributors to mobile broadband service profit margins. Ericsson reports that “breakage” (paid for, but unused megabytes in a data plan) ranges from a low of about 15 percent for users of 1-gigabyte plans up to about 60 percent for data plans of 15 Gbytes to 20 Gbytes.

Also, “overage” (use of more data than a user has paid for as part of the device data plan) ranges from about 30 percent for users of 1-Gbyte plans to about 12 percent for users of the the 15-Gbyte to 20-Gbyte plans.

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