CTIA 2010: Data Overtakes Voice

LAS VEGAS -- International CTIA WIRELESS 2010 -- Mobile data surpassed voice as the principal traffic on wireless networks worldwide in December 2009 for the first time ever, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) reported here at the show today.

The Swedish infrastructure provider says -- based from its own monitoring of global wireless networks -- the crossover point occurred at approximately 140,000 Terabytes per month in both voice and data traffic. This represents massive data growth in recent years, with Ericsson noting that data traffic globally grew 280 percent during each of the last two years, and predicting it will double annually over the next five years.

This growth has been driven on the hardware side by the explosion in data usage of smartphones and mobile devices such as laptops on 3G networks over the last few years. As for what people are doing with this data, Ericsson finds that applications like Twitter Inc. and Facebook account for a sizable chunk of the bits flying over the airwaves.

"Social networking sites on mobile devices and mobile broadband-based PCs now account for a large percentage of mobile data traffic," Ericsson claims. "For example, over 200 mobile operators in 60 countries are deploying and promoting Facebook mobile products, with over 100 million active users accessing Facebook through their mobile devices."

All of which is generally good news for carriers, infrastructure players, and device vendors. It will put more pressure, however, on the "all-you-can-eat" unlimited data plan model adopted by many US carriers, whereby users pay a fixed amount a month for data services. If voice is no longer the cash cow, operators are likely to look for ways to milk more money from data.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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