Why mobile data consumption is about to explode in emerging markets

New data from GSMA Intelligence indicates users on LTE networks consume far more mobile data than their counterparts using 3G, my colleague Kevin Fitchard reported this week. Verizon’s LTE network hosted 64 percent of total data traffic during the third quarter of 2013, the industry organization noted, despite the fact that only 38 percent of the carrier’s connections were LTE. And LTE users in South Korea consume almost twice as much data per month as HSPA users, partly because those 4G users are less likely to look for Wi-Fi connections.

That’s logical, of course: Just as the transition from fixed-line dial-up service to broadband spurred huge increases in data usage at home and in the workplace, the speed and relatively low cost of LTE is sure to boost consumption. But LTE networks are only just beginning to be built out in China and India, which will become the two largest markets for LTE-enabled smartphones in the next several years. If carriers in those markets can figure out ways to deliver consistent LTE service at affordable prices, data consumption there will dwarf what we’ve seen in more mature markets.

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  1. quite naive — most handsets in india are still 2g and china is marginally better

    1. I think that actually underscores my point, ssampath — there’s enormous room for growth. Cheap, 3G-enabled handsets are already coming to market in a big way, so data consumption is taking off just as it did in more advanced markets during the transition from 2G to 3G.

      And pricing of LTE devices will eventually follow that path. But the most important point I’m trying to make is that these markets dwarf the U.S., so even incremental increases will blow the doors off the consumption we’re seeing here.

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