Wireless Blog

The Wireless Blog from Unwired Insight discusses the latest developments in wireless networks and services, including the new technologies and architectures of LTE-Advanced and 5G. For expert advice on 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G mobile systems and standards, including GSM, UMTS, LTE, LTE-Advanced and 5G-NR, please contact us.

3G traffic volumes have increased substantially since 2007

Photograph of Alastair BrydonWhile some industry observers pointed to the underutilisation of 3G networks following their launch as a sign that 3G networks were not needed, there have been many developments that have kick-started the take-up and usage of 3G services, which include the:

  • launch of mobile broadband services (using USB modems and datacards), at affordable prices
  • launch of popular 3G-enabled smartphones (for example, Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry)
  • widespread introduction of HSPA networks, offering typical average user throughputs of about 1Mbps, or above
  • continued coverage roll-out of 3G networks (partly in response to regulatory minimum coverage requirements).

Large increases in cellular data traffic volumes have been reported.

Since 2007, 3G operators and equipment vendors have reported significant increases in cellular traffic volumes, as shown in the following examples.

  • In its Annual Report for the year ending December 2008, TeliaSonera reported that usage of mobile broadband and data had “exploded”. It stated that mobile data traffic in its Nordic and Baltic operations increased by nearly 500% in 2008.
  • In March 2009, T-Mobile in the Netherlands reported that total weekly usage of mobile data services increased from 2.5TB (equivalent to 10.8TB per month) to 3.1TB (13.4TB per month) in the first half of 2008. In the second half of 2008, total weekly mobile data traffic increased from 3.1TB (13.4TB per month) to 20.5TB (88.8TB per month) – a 561% increase in six months. Total mobile data traffic increased about seven fold in the 12 month period to the end of 2008.
  • 3 UK, which has aggressively promoted affordable mobile broadband services, has reported very large increases in mobile traffic volumes. In April 2008, it reported that mobile traffic had increased by a factor of seven in the six month period ending March 2008.
  • Total monthly data usage on all of Hong Kong’s cellular networks reached 133TB in December 2008, a 312% increase from December 2007, according to the Office of the Telecommunications Authority in Hong Kong. As shown in the table below, monthly usage per 2.5/3G customer was 40.3MB per month in December 2008, a 266% increase from December 2007.
  • In a newsletter , Ericsson stated that studies of its customers’ HSPA networks worldwide showed a 3.5-fold increase in traffic in the 12 months to July 2008.
Table of total monthly data usage, annual increase and monthly usage per customer for cellular services in Hong Kong

Monthly cellular data usage in Hong Kong, Dec 2002 – Dec 2008

Dr Alastair Brydon has worked in digital radio communications for over 25 years. He provides expert advice on 2G, 3G and 4G mobile systems and standards including GSM, UMTS and LTE. He has written over 40 reports on the development of wireless technologies and services and has acted as an expert witness in major patent disputes.

Contact Unwired Insight

Phone Image

+44 (0) 1480 819391

Search the Wireless Blog