Rapid growth in mobile data use puts pressure on everyone

by Steve Blum • ,

Mobile data consumption in the U.S. is growing exponentially, with typical usage hitting 2.5 GB per month, according to a report released by Chetan Sharma Consulting

The average mobile data consumption (cellular) is approximately 2.5GB/mo. In the US, it took roughly 20 years to reach the 1GB/user/mo mark. However, the second GB mark has been reached in less than 4 quarters. An entire year’s worth of mobile data traffic in 2007 is now reached in less than 75 hours.

In round numbers, the amount of data mobile operators have to move for each customer has jumped by 100-times in the last eight years. And there are more customers now – the report indicates that the combined subscriber count of the four major U.S. carriers has gone from the 200 million range in 2007 to more than 300 million now.

Not every man, woman and infant in the U.S. has a subscription; lots of people have more than one. But even so, the market is pretty much saturated. The report concludes that there’s effectively zero money left to be made from new customers and all future industry revenue growth will have to come from existing subscribers.

On the current path, U.S. data consumption will double again within a couple of years, and maybe – probably – sooner. The pressure to meet this demand won’t just fall on mobile operators. Given limited growth in spectrum availability, increased capacity will come from more towers, more equipment on towers and more fiber backhaul. That means means local government will have to contend with more permit applications and a greater sense of urgency from consumers and mobile operators alike. If you’re wondering why the California legislature is on the verge of declaring that wireless facilities are not a municipal affair but a matter of statewide concern, look no further.