Can a Campus Make Us Smarter About Mobile?

There are many different views about how mobile service usage will develop, but everyone agrees on at least one thing: Mobile data consumption will continue to rise.

And while no one knows exactly what the usage patterns will be for each market/demographic and so on, some data compiled by mobile optimization and analytics specialist Actix Ltd. , which is in the process of being acquired by Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), provides an interesting insight into some of the usage trends we can expect in the future. (See Amdocs Dives Into Mobile SPIT Pool.)

Actix believes that students, who generally use smartphones and tablets and who seek out low-cost service packages, provide a guide to the future of mobile service consumption. From studies of mobile network traffic, Actix found that an average student campus will, in general, generate higher levels of voice and data traffic than city transport hubs and central business districts. "A university campus will generate 60 percent more calls per person per day, and 388 percent more data per person per day compared to traffic in a business district," notes Actix.

In addition, "universities also have the highest levels of data upload, accounting for 30 percent of all data traffic at the location." That's a significant statistic.

As students are "early adopters and power users of mobile," they provide "an important gauge of future trends. Network operators need to accommodate these evolving attitudes to mobile use if they are to continue to deliver effective, profitable networks," adds Actix in a media release about its findings, which also highlights the increasing role Wifi access will likely play in mobile data usage patterns.

While Actix isn't revealing any new trends, its analysis of student usage highlights some of the major considerations mobile operators need to address right now as they plan and build out their 4G networks, and in particular consider the use of small cells with integrated WiFi in their networks.

The most important decisions for mobile operators are to decide what it is they want to be and who they would like to have as their customers -- and then plan and invest accordingly, not just in the radio access network but also in the backhaul and packet core, as the ability to employ policy control and real-time charging capabilities is going to be just as important as increasing access speeds and expanding network reach. Just building a 4G network and then shouting about how fast it is really isn't enough.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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mendyk 9/11/2013 | 2:02:40 PM
Re: Mobile Future...Students Lead the Way I thought people in Dallas liked to watch football. When the smartphone trumps the Cowboys for attention, something strange is going on.
MtnViewJeff 9/11/2013 | 1:21:09 PM
Re: Mobile Future...Students Lead the Way Agreed, 30% upstream is very much a young person sharing metric (snapchat, vine, etc.). That said, yesterday AT&T reported stadium wi-fi stats for the Cowboys-Giants game and Wi-fi traffic was heavily upstream and 6x the size of 3g/4g traffic.  Here was the key stat:

- Fans at AT&T Stadium shattered AT&T¹s previous Wi-Fi records at the

venue. Fans made more than 25,000 connections, sent and received more than

1.3M MB of data on the AT&T Stadium Wi-Fi network on Sunday. Fans used

more than triple the amount of Wi-Fi data that they did during the 2012

season opener at the then-Cowboys Stadium.

So it's not just universities but things like stadiums, malls, and hotels that will blend together to point to the blended trend line for the future.

[email protected] 9/11/2013 | 7:38:06 AM
Re: Mobile Future...Students Lead the Way And just on the diff types of campus environments - cure, but I wonder how many corporate campuses and hotels have a 30% upstream traffic stat?
[email protected] 9/11/2013 | 7:36:54 AM
Re: Mobile Future...Students Lead the Way Great points, MtnViewJeff 

Ultimately, the core + device intelligence of wireless/mobile service providers will be the key differentiator, not the speed of the connection.
RitchBlasi 9/10/2013 | 2:05:34 PM
Campus. You know I was going to mention high schools too since my neices and nephews are all mobile freaks.  Well, they get a taste there and then, hopefully, become the next Zuckerberg's of the world.
MtnViewJeff 9/10/2013 | 1:19:27 PM
Re: Mobile Future...Students Lead the Way Sarah and Ray, from the perspective of Skyfire and Opera's Operator Solutions, we agree that the 'campus' environment is a microcosm of future density of demand and trends.  It's not just universities, but also corporate campuses, hotels, and hospitals for instance that rely on wi-fi heavily, have smartphone-toting density, and lots of connected laptops as well.

The kinds of data and video optimization that surgically detect when a 3g/4g cell or individual users are getting poor QoE, and restores a good experience, will be particularly valuable in these campus situations... whether peak video use at a hotel in the evening, a business conference, or student cafeteria lunch hour... That's the kind of thing that Skyfire has been able to do with some of our latest innovations, and of course a variety of companies are working on the problem.

As to operators facing a danger from the growth of Wi-Fi, and losing touch with their subscribers, that's very real.  Especially with the coming advent of SPDY and HTTP 2.0 standards, that make network insertion antiquated, being relevant on OTT traffic on both 3g/4g and on Wi-Fi requires a client footprint and apps that consumers love and return to frequently.  That's why for instance several North American Tier 1 operators are turning to things like Skyfire Horizon, a browser extension and personalization vehicle, that lets operators communicate (selectively and gracefully) with their users even on Wi-Fi.  

Lots more innovation to come from the industry and lots to learn.  Thanks for the interesting article.

Sarah Thomas 9/10/2013 | 1:00:50 PM
Re: Mobile Future...Students Lead the Way That's true, Ritch, and you do see a lot of WiFi initiatives starting at college campuses. It's as crucial as electricity and beer there!

The network operators might not care as much, but let's also remember Facebook started at a University. Most social networks take off here too (if not in high schools), so it's good to keep an eye on ALL the digital/mobile/network trends at the collegiate level.
Sarah Thomas 9/10/2013 | 12:58:30 PM
Re: Youth served Poor or rich (with parents' money), I think the student population is the most willing to take advantage of new policy-enabled pricing schemes, like ads for data, happy hours for data, etc. Others might not care enough too, but young people would be interested for the cost savings.

This is, of course, assuming they aren't all on their family plans...which is doubtful for many.
RitchBlasi 9/10/2013 | 12:30:54 PM
Following onto...... Just came across this in another article on mHealth.  Thought it was another good point...


A recent survey of U.S. medical students shows that 53 percent of those that prefer digital sources turn to a mobile reference first to answer a clinical question.  

According to the survey, 54 percent of medical students currently use a tablet as part of their medical training--a whopping 31 percent increase compared to 2012 results. Nevertheless, only 18 percent of medical students in the survey, from more than 200 medical schools, were required to use tablets in training.

The survey found that the top tasks performed on tablets by medical students were: looking up clinical data, accessing patient records, and communicating with colleagues and physicians. In the survey, 82 percent of medical students said they would recommend health-related apps to future patients. 

Conducted in July 2013, the online survey of more than 1,000 medical students from all 50 states revealed that 44 percent of medical students are "digital omnivores," which are defined as people who use a tablet, smartphone, and computer routinely in a professional or academic capacity. 

"The effective use of all platforms of technology allows medical students to deliver better and more efficient patient care," app developer Epocrates stated in the announcement of the results for their 8th annual Future Physicians of America survey.
RitchBlasi 9/10/2013 | 12:21:50 PM
Mobile Future...Students Lead the Way My experience in mobile/wireless does show that campuses are the perfect test bed for how best to enhance network capacity and quality.  Look at the number of households that now are totally wireless -- more than one-third - and I would bet a deeper dive into those numbers would reveal that much of that growth has come over the past few years as Gen M (for mobile) has grown up not being handcuffed six feet from a wall for their Internet or phone access.  This change in our society will only grow - and carriers know this - so using campuses as a test-bed of activity makes sense.  It will also allow them to better understand how to provide an air-agnostic interface that will bounce customers, seamlessly, between cellular and Wi-Fi.  When people talk about college students being the "leaders of the future," it will mean much more when it comes to how they will communicate.
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