A new report by telecom services provider Allot Communications should give U.S. wireless carriers fresh ammunition to push for usage-based mobile broadband fees. The study found mobile bandwidth use during just the second half of 2009 increased 72% globally.
The 59% growth in the Americas trails the Asia-Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, where higher rates of subscriber and application growth are pushing mobile data usage higher. Streaming video was the fastest growing activity, doubling in consumption, with YouTube alone accounting for 10% of worldwide bandwidth use.
"The site's overwhelming popularity suggests that it is the single most important global streaming Website," states the report, citing factors such as ease of use, the proliferation of smartphones and the role of social networks in enabling video-sharing. And if the U.S. follows the pattern in Asia and Europe, video streaming will eventually eclipse Web browsing as the biggest draw on bandwidth. (Currently, browsing makes up 35% of use compared to 25% for streaming.)
When AT&T head Ralph de la Vega in December suggested the carrier might have to adopt metered pricing, he alluded to round-the-clock video and audio playing by a minority of subscribers as culprits in driving up usage. Verizon Wireless has indicated it will also shift to a usage-based pricing model when it launches its 4G LTE network later this year. Wireless analysts expect more operators will ultimately go the same route as data traffic swells. The new findings from Allot won't do anything to change that outlook.