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Recent Smartphone Trends &

the Extreme Data User

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Copyright 2012 Arieso Ltd

Author:

Michael Flanagan

Version:

Final

Issued:

6 January 2012

The information contained in this document and any documentation referred to herein or
attached hereto, is of a confidential nature and is supplied for the purpose of discussion only
and for no other purpose.
This information should only be disclosed to those individuals directly involved with
consideration and evaluation of any proposals, all of who shall be made aware of this
requirement for confidentiality.

All trademarks are hereby acknowledged.

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Executive Summary
Recent Tier-1 market information reveals increasingly sophisticated devices with user demands
that continue to grow over time. This represents a double-threat to the industry: smartphone
penetration rates continue to climb while smartphone user demands reach new heights. As
shown in earlier studies, the demands of prior smartphone subscribers are formidable and well
known, especially with regards to iPhone 3G data volumes and numbers of data calls. A
comparison of newer smartphones with the benchmark iPhone 3G reveal that the latest breed
of subscriber has a more insatiable demand for data on a per-subscriber basis than ever seen
before. The iPhone 4S released in 2011 is measured to be the most voracious smartphone with
unprecedented increases in uplink and downlink data demands on a per subscriber basis. In a
per-subscriber study of the eighteen hungriest smartphones across six manufacturers we find:

iPhone 4S users demand three times as much data as the benchmark iPhone 3G
users
iPhone 4S users demand twice as much data as iPhone 4 users (who were most
demanding last year)
Google Nexus One users make twice as many data calls than iPhone 3G users
(consistent with last year)

Other observations include:

Devices like the iPhone 4S will proliferate the market within the next 12-18 months
The extreme 1% of all users consume half of the downlink data

Strategies to deal with these extreme users are considered and a subscriber-centric, locationaware technique is shown to not only provide requisite off-loading from 3G systems in the near
term, but is also shown to satisfy longer-term theoretical limits on system performance. This
constitutes an important SON (Self-Optimizing Networks) use case involving optimal site
placement, and network operators will require this type of technique in order to satisfy the
inexorable data demands that are expected to continue into the foreseeable future.

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Introduction
Recent smartphone launches continue to reveal new breeds of data subscribers with
increasingly voracious appetites. The demands of prior smartphone subscribers are formidable
and well known in the industry, especially with regards to iPhone 3G data volumes and numbers
of data calls. However, the introduction of new data-intense features on recent smartphones
(such as dual-core A5 processor, 8-Megapixel camera, 1080p HD video, and iCloud processing to
increase ease of data access on the iPhone 4S) raises the expectation that the users of these
new smartphones will be even more intense data consumers. The purpose of this paper is to
quantify this increased usage behaviour as seen in a variety of popular smartphones in order to
continue the analysis performed a year ago.
This paper addresses the recent data demands of over 1.1 million distinct subscribers over a
single, 24-hour weekday in a Tier-1 UMTS market1 with a mixture of urban and suburban
morphologies. The following comparative analysis focuses on popular devices which were
represented by at least 1000 subscribers (and the most popular devices were represented by
well over 10,000 subscribers). While any device could be used as a point of reference, the
iPhone 3G is chosen due to its historical and statistical significance (since it constituted both a
past pinnacle in user network demand as well as exhibiting a typical demand across all current
devices). Therefore, increases in demand over the iPhone 3G continue to constitute a new
standard for subscriber behaviour that network operators must prepare for.
The remainder of this paper is broken into three parts: device demand, extreme user behaviour
and network operator response.

It should be noted that this is a different Tier-1 market than that considered in 2010s study. While this
market difference impacts absolute quantities (such as Mbytes/subscriber and total data calls), the
comparative approach in this report is seen to be largely robust in spite of this difference. For example,
relative to the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 4 is seen to have similar data demands as those seen last year.
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Part I: Device Demand


Comparative results
The per-subscriber demands of eighteen smartphones are compared to the iPhone 3G in Table 1
below. The devices are organised by manufacturer and then by release date. Non-voice devices
(such as a collection of 3G modems and the iPad) are also compared. The results were
normalized in each category so that the iPhone 3G score would be 100%. The highest
smartphone score in each category is high-lighted in red, as are other scores of interest.

Table 1: Comparative Results by device2

The voice calls/subscriber is not studied this year since the results of last year showed no significant
changes in voice calling patterns. The data Minutes of Use/subscriber is not studied this year data
volumes are the best measure of aggregate data demands while signalling demands are addressed by the
data calls/subscriber category. It should also be noted that several devices from 2010s study do not
appear in this table due to the decreased popularity of those devices (i.e., <1000 subscribers seen).
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The Google Nexus One has twice the data calls per subscriber
compared to the iPhone 3G
The number of data calls per subscriber is 121% higher for the HTC Google Nexus One than for
the iPhone 3G. This device held the distinction of the most data calls per subscriber in the
analysis performed last year by a similar amount. By way of comparison, the iPhone 4S shows
54% more data calls per subscriber than the iPhone 3G. Part of this increase may be due to the
relative novelty of the iPhone 4S, but this can also be consistent with the greater ease-of-use of
the iPhone 4S over the iPhone 3G. Similar ease-of-use arguments may apply to the Google
Nexus One. The applications predominantly used on the Google Nexus One and the iPhone 4
(especially automated applications) may also contribute to this increase. Finally, there is also
the question of the impact of operating system and the related, (potentially excessive) signalling
demand of the smartphone on the number of data calls. This remains a topic of on-going study
by network operators in partnership with smartphone vendors.

Uplink data volumes per subscriber increased by up to 223%


The HTC Desire S revealed a dramatic 223% increase in uplink data volumes per subscriber
compared to the iPhone 3G. This is greater than the 126% increase of the Samsung Galaxy
reported last year (which shows a somewhat reduced, yet comparable 95% increase this year in
Table 1). The iPhone 4S was in a virtual tie with the HTC Desire S with a 220% increase. Several
other smartphones (including the HTC Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S II) also showed
substantial gains in this category. While subscribers with newer smartphones are generally still
a minority compared to the more numerous iPhone 3G subscribers, their relative numbers are
going up each day and it is only a matter of time before they are responsible for greater
aggregate uplink data volumes than all iPhone 3G users combined.
Increases in uplink data volumes are largely expected to be due to corresponding increases in
user generated content. HD video recorders and 5-Megapixel cameras (or better) are common
features in the smartphones that show gains in uplink data volumes. The use of image and
video editing applications will also result in larger amounts of uplink data volume to be
transmitted by the subscriber to the network. It should still be noted, however, that each
smartphone in this study still consumed substantially more downlink data than it generated
uplink data (by a ratio of almost 7-to-1, which is very slightly lower than the ratio seen last year).

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Downlink data volumes per subscriber increased by up to 176%


The iPhone 4S showed an increase of 176% in downlink data volumes over the iPhone 3G. Since
the downlink-to-uplink data volume ratio was almost 7-to-1 on average for the devices under
study, this downlink increase of 176% corresponds to a larger total volume of data than a 220%
uplink increase (discussed in the last section). As noted earlier regarding the increases in total
numbers of data calls, it remains a topic for further study to characterise the root cause of this
downlink data volume increase. But regardless of the cause, quantifying this increase is still
important for purposes of network planning and optimisation (including forecast trending).The
iPhone 4S increase of 176% is more than four times the largest downlink data volume increase
seen last year in the iPhone 4. Therefore, taken together, the increases in downlink and uplink
data volumes seen in the iPhone 4S are unprecedented and marks the iPhone 4S as the
hungriest handset on the market. It should be noted that these increases are not just due to the
hungriest iPhone 4 users migrating to the latest device. This is because the relative data
volumes for the iPhone 4 are virtually unchanged from last years study (i.e., if the hungriest
iPhone 4 users left in droves then the average would have plummeted). While there is no
question that hungry users are attracted to the iPhone 4S, the device appears to unleash data
consumption behaviours that have no precedent.

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Quantifying the evolving data demand of devices


The downlink data volume demands per subscriber (relative to the iPhone 3G) versus release
date of the devices under study are shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Average downlink data volume/sub vs. device release date


There are three periods of interest in Figure 1: pre-1H2009, post-1H2010, and the interval from
1H2009 to 1H2010, inclusive. Prior to 1H2009, the average demand is seen to be about 50% of
the iPhone 3G demand. While the iPhone 3G had been released during this first period, many
of the devices released in this period were not as demanding: this resulted in an overall average
of about 50%. The industry began to catch up to the standard that was set by the iPhone 3G
between 1H2009 and 1H2010, inclusive. During this period, the average demand was
comparable to the iPhone 3G (i.e., near 100%) and nearly flat. Starting in 2H2010, we see a
climb in demand that exceeds that of the iPhone 3G. Overall, this provides an important
measure of the rate at which comparable devices are introduced into the market by the
smartphone manufacturers. This trend suggests a growth of 40% per annum starting in 2H2010.
Based on this growth rate and prior catch-up performance, Arieso predicts a proliferation of
devices with demands similar to the iPhone 4S within the next 12 to 18 months.
This analysis focuses on downlink data volumes due to its dominance compared to uplink data
volumes (by a ratio of nearly 7-to-1). However, similar overall trends in uplink data volumes
versus device release dates can be seen here as well.

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The iPhone 3G as a benchmark


The iPhone 3G is often used as a benchmark for mobile devices. In part this is due to the
historical significance of the iPhone. The advent of the iPhone in 2007-2008 heralded the start
of the big data challenge that the wireless industry still works to meet. The iconic design of
the iPhone is still an important point of reference that continues to be imitated. But Figure 2
below reveals another reason to employ the iPhone 3G as a benchmark: it is a median device.

Figure 2: Distribution of average downlink data volume/user by device type

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In a study of over 100 smartphone and non-smartphone devices (each represented by more
than 1000 users per device), nearly half of the devices had a downlink data volume per user less
than the iPhone 3G (normalized to unity on the x-axis above). As such, the iPhone 3G
represents the median demand for the collection of devices (smartphones and nonsmartphones) under study. It should be noted that the x-axis above is plotted logarithmically: as
seen in Table 1, many devices (especially USB dongles) will have demands that are substantially
greater than that of the iPhone 3G. The Nokia E71 is shown as an example of a lower-demand
device (39% of the iPhone 3G); only 15% of the reported devices had a lesser demand. As
noted earlier in this study, the iPhone 4S is located at pinnacle of smartphone demand; only USB
dongles and data cards are situated above the iPhone 4S in Figure 2. Similar results can be
observed for uplink data volumes and numbers of data calls.

The iPad is still more like a smartphone than a PC


As noted in earlier studies, 3G modems are generally noteworthy for two aspects: 1) their
relatively low volumes of subscribers (compared to smartphones and other devices) and 2) their
remarkably high volumes of data per subscriber. The product of these two items results in the
aggregate data volume across all 3G modems and is typically competitive with (and sometimes
in excess of) the aggregate data volume across all smartphones. Table 1 shows a considerable
23-to-24 times increase in the data volume per 3G modem subscriber over the iPhone 3G
reference. This is achieved by making nearly one-seventh the number of data calls per
subscriber.
In contrast, the typically more numerous iPads reveal per-subscriber scores in Table 1 that are
well within the range of the smartphone scores for each category. As such, the iPad appears to
be more like a smartphone from a 3G network demand perspective than the more voracious 3G
modem. This information about the impact of tablet devices on the network is critically
important not only for network planners but also for marketing departments who must price
data plans for tablet devices: tablets are in a completely different usage range than the 3G
modems with which they are often grouped. We conjecture that the vast majority of tablet data
transfers occur on Wi-Fi networks (although this is outside the scope of our UMTS study).
By way of tablet evolution, it is interesting to note that the advent of the iPad 2 has done little
to increase downlink data demand or the number of data calls compared to the original iPad.
However, the uplink data demand is notably increased from 173% to 261% (relative to the
iPhone 3G). As there were no cameras on the original iPad, this increase is likely due to the
introduction of front-facing and rear-facing cameras on the iPad 2, and the attendant increase in
user-generated content.

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Part II: The Extreme Data User


Extreme Usage Overview
Consideration of the device demands is of paramount importance for an integral understanding
of how aggregate network demands will evolve over time. This is because the uptake rate of
different devices in a given geographical area can be translated into demands across those
different devices to assist in traffic forecasting and capacity analysis. In addition to this
aggregate demand (which relies on the analysis of averaged quantities), it is also important to
understand the demand in extreme cases (for example, for the hungriest of users). This is
because the presence of sufficiently non-uniform demands across users dictate that different
actions be taken in order to cope with this demand.
The distribution of downlink data volume as a function of user fraction for the market under
study is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Downlink data fraction versus user fraction

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It is remarkable that the hungriest 1% of all subscribers consume half of the downlink data
volume. By way of comparison, the hungriest 0.1% consume one-fifth of the downlink data
while the hungriest 10% consume 90% of the downlink data. In 2009, it was reported that 3% of
the users were consumed 40% of the data 3. For this (different) Tier-1 market under study, 3% of
the users consume 70% of the data, suggesting that the hungry are getting hungrier. This
remains a topic for further study. Migration of these extreme users off of the UMTS macro
network provides an enormous opportunity for UMTS capacity relief.
The distribution of device types for the hungriest 1% of all users is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Extreme user device breakdown


The hungriest 1% of all subscribers were predominantly using USB dongles or 3G Modems. This
suggests highly stationary behaviour at home or places of business. Even the smartphone and
tablet users are often seen to make use of the network from a small number of discrete
locations.
This disparity in data consumption suggests a location-aware, subscriber-centric approach to
managing future data demand. This is explored in the next part of this paper.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/173320/atandt_wireless_ceo_hints_at_managing_iphone_data_usage.
html)
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Part III: Network Operator Response


The Extreme Response
There are many strategies to deal with the demands of extreme users. One of the more popular
approaches of late has to do with data throttling. This results in the reduction of data transfer
rates once a data volume limit is exceeded. Another approach makes use of overage pricing.
This results in increased fees once a data volume is exceeded. Yet another approach involves
the use of policy management where certain applications or visits to over-the-top websites will
result in reduced data rates. These can all be valid approaches given the circumstances of the
network operator and the relationship with the extreme customer. In a sense, each of these
techniques is a controlled churn strategy: if the extreme user is unhappy with the service
offered by the network operator then that user is free to go away and be extreme on the
network of a competitor. Indeed, this can be a situation where churn is viewed in a favourable
light.
There is still a need to go beyond these controlled churn mechanisms for the extreme
customers that a network operator wishes to keep. As noted in the prior section, a small
percentage of extreme users will consume the majority of their data from one or a small number
of discrete locations (per user). One customer-centric, location-aware strategy is then to outfit
the extreme user with a 4G device (to replace their existing 3G device) AND to install a 4G small
cell as close as possible to where they regularly consume data. This conjunction is extremely
important: it is not enough to provide a 4G device without ensuring that the data offload will
occur by judicious placement of a new small cell. The good news is that there exist locationaware products that can determine the correct place for the new small cell. In addition, the
number of subscribers that this needs to be done for is small in order to accomplish substantial
offloads. As noted in the previous section, offloading just 1% of subscribers would double the
effective network capacity.
This approach has benefits beyond near-term offloading. It is also theoretically optimal for
longer-term network design. This is because the capacity of a network is driven by three
components:
1. The amount of available spectrum
2. The air interface performance
3. The network design (including site placement)

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Spectrum is fundamentally limited, subject to licensing costs, and made available in an


infrequent manner. Since the capacity performance typically scales with the amount of
spectrum, the capacity of a network is typically expressed per unit of spectrum (e.g.,
bits/sec/Hz).
The performance of any air interface (such as GSM, UMTS, LTE) is subject to the Shannon Limit
as shown in Figure 5 below. Progress in coding and modulation results in modern
communications systems that are within a few deciBels (dB) of the Shannon Limit. While there
have been substantial gains going from GSM to UMTS and from UMTS to LTE, there are
diminishing opportunities for gains in the future.

Figure 5: Capacity versus Signal-to-Noise (SNR)


This leaves network design as the final frontier in maximising the capacity of wireless networks.
The operating points P1, P2, P3 and P4 can be viewed as four different network designs where
sites are placed increasingly closer to where the subscriber is located (going from the low SNR
values of P1 to the higher SNR values of P4). These gains can only be accomplished by knowing
where subscribers are located. Surgical placement of small cells not only results in the desired
data off-load in the near-term, but also satisfies long-term optimality criteria.
While much of the emphasis has been on migration to LTE, offloading can also be accomplished
using UMTS strategies. This is done, as before, by placing small cells in the immediate vicinity of

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where the extreme data users are located. In a recent case study with a Tier-1 network
operator, 250 microcells were added to a macro cell network in order to offload data traffic. A
location-aware product was used to determine where data traffic demands were located in
order to best place the new microcells, as shown in Figure 6 below.

Figure 6: Microcell placement using data and voice maps


In this particular case study, the location of a microcell was moved 75 meters to the west in
order to better serve an area of intense high-speed (HS) data demand. As a result of this overall
effort, there were 20% improvements in customer experience metrics associated with data
usage and 250% increases in capacity per square-kilometre. It is important to note that these
network design decisions were effectively driven by the customers themselves (and not by
drive-testing or traditional switch statistics). This effectively constitutes a key SON (SelfOrganizing Networks) use case involving the placement of base station infrastructure.
This example illustrates the utility of customer-centric, location-aware solutions for the
following groups within the network operator:

Radio Access Network (RAN) planning


Performance engineering
Customer experience assurance

These solutions also provide actionable insights to geo-marketing intelligence teams. For
example, knowledge of which devices perform better in different areas of the network allows
better marketing to customers who are planning to move from feature phones to smartphones.

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Summary
Recent Tier-1 market information reveals increasingly sophisticated devices that are unleashing
unprecedented levels of user demand. The iPhone 4S, in particular, was seen to effectively be
the hungriest handset according to per-subscriber uplink and downlink data demands. The
iPhone 4S was seen to have twice the demand of 2010s hungriest handset, the iPhone 4.
Other recent devices, including the HTC Desire S, were seen to have dramatic gains in data
demand. The average device demand was seen to be increasing at a rate of 40% per annum,
suggesting a proliferation of devices rivalling the iPhone 4S in the next 12-18 months. As noted
in last years study, tablet users were seen to be more like smartphone users than 3G Modem
users; this motivates new data plan pricing strategies for tablets.
The study of extreme data devices motivated the study of extreme data users and the hungriest
1% were seen to consume half of the transmitted data. The most extreme data users mostly
made use of USB dongles, some smartphones and a few tablets. The disparity in consumption
appears to be increasing over time compared to earlier, well-publicised reports.
The extreme data user problem triggers a variety of network operator responses, including use
of customer-centric, location-aware techniques to surgically place a relatively-limited number of
small cells. This SON (Self-Optimizing Network) use case not only satisfies near-term offload
objectives, but also longer-term design objectives in a theoretically optimal manner. Case
studies involving the targeted application of small cells illustrated the benefits of customercentric, location-aware products for the following groups within the network operator:

RAN Planning
Performance Engineering
Customer Experience Assurance
Geo-Marketing Intelligence

It must be noted that the particular results in this paper correspond to the specific market that
was studied, and that these results can vary depending on a number of circumstances (including
morphologies, available devices, regional customer behaviours, and socio-economic user
factors). As such, these results are intended to be illustrative rather than definitive. Each
network operator should embark upon a similar subscriber and network evaluation programme
in order to determine the clear and present data demands being placed on their network as well
as the most appropriate response strategies to best satisfy this demand.

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