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Report: Latam networks designed for voice, but growth is in mobile data

A new report from Arieso shows that throughout Latin America, network operators are experiencing a “perfect storm.” According to the  report, there are substantial growth rates for mobile data consumption in Latin America, although most networks have been designed and optimized only for voice.

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This could be a problem in light of the report’s global findings: the use of mobile data is coming more from smartphones than tablets. According to Arieso, smartphone users have overtaken tablet users in their demand for mobile data for the first time. While mobile data consumption continues to increase, driven by new devices and richer content, the study suggests that extreme users are beginning to move to new LTE networks, but there is no decrease in use on existing networks.

A survey conducted last year by Cisco also noted the mobile data explosion. The survey estimated the size and speed of mobile data by 2016 with the five-year forecast showing a dramatically different mobile experience for users around the world. Latin America was expected to follow the global trend, posting a 79% compound annual growth rate, or 18-fold increase in mobile data traffic by 2016. In Brazil, mobile data traffic in 2016 is estimated to be an equivalent of 24-times the volume of the country’s entire Internet traffic from 2005.

From a network perspective, it is important to note that LTE commercial launches are just beginning to roll out in the region. The Global mobile Suppliers Association counted 13 operators from eight countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have launched LTE services.

Arieso said the mobile data growth means that any substantial increase in use will dramatically shrink coverage and quality of service on voice-optimized networks. Meanwhile, it also added that in-building performance might also suffer.

Worldwide findings

The report data originates from a tier-one European operator, but Arieso said the results are relevant to operators around the world because relative consumption among device users remains constant no matter their location.

Globally, the report found that for the first time, smartphone users are consistently consuming more mobile data than tablet users. Out of the top ten most voracious devices (excluding dongles), six were smartphones, three were tablets and one a “phablet” (the so-called combination of smartphone and tablet).

Arieso evaluated 125 devices and of these, the company found that users of the latest iPhone again proved the most voracious data consumers. “But for the first time in three years, this dominance is being challenged,”the report stated.

Users of the iPhone 5 demand four times as much data as iPhone 3G users and 50% more than iPhone 4S users. Samsung Galaxy S III users generate nearly four times the amount of data than iPhone 3G users, beating iPhone 5 users into third place on uplink data usage behind the Samsung Galaxy Note II.

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