America is moving towards a wireless civilization, consuming more and more data via wireless devices rather than fixed line devices. In 2014, 44% of American households were “wireless only,” compared with 39% in 2013. Furthermore, the amount of wireless device use is continuing: in 2014, American consumers used 26% more mobile data compared with 2013 and the North American carriers are under pressure to increase their network capacity. According to the CTIA, the overall mobile data use for 2014 was an impressive 4.1 trillion megabytes and of this, over two thirds was from the 208 million smartphones and 35 million tablets in use in North America during the year. This means that every minute, 7.7 million megabytes of data is consumed, 3.6 million text messages and close to 300,000 videos and photos are shared by American consumers. That means every month, US consumers burn through 338.4 billion megabytes of data usage and this include almost 205 billion voice minutes, 169.3 billion text messages and 15.4 billion multimedia messages.
What are Americans using their mobile data for? Perhaps a better question is, “what are Americans not using their mobile data for?” Everything is covered from storing, sharing and retrieving photographs, watching movies via Netflix, Amazon Prime Movies and other online streaming services, listening to music and podcasts, through to using social networking applications and sending email or instant messages. Meredith Baker, Chief Executive Officer of the CTIA (the Wireless Association but formerly known as the Cellular Telephone Industries Association) had this to say on the matter: “Americans enjoy the best wireless experience in the world, from the fast 4G / LTE networks that are available to more than 98 percent of the country to the trend-setting devices and countless apps created every day.”
It’s certainly true: the applications that we are using on our device this month are different to the same time last year. As applications evolve, they tend to use more data because developers tend to build in greater functions or increase the quality of the data being shunted around the network. Some applications also use more data if there is a higher performance connection available – Netflix is a great example, where it will stream the feature at a higher quality if the device has a higher performance data network. These changes can mean that over time, a customer’s device will use more mobile data for essentially performing the same duty.