Data now accounts for 98 percent of all mobile traffic globally, putting networks under strain and leading to a more than doubling of dropped calls, new research has claimed.
Amdocs' annual State of the Radio Access Network white paper found booming smartphone and tablet use has led to network traffic being almost entirely data driven during the past 12 months, compared to it accounting for 90 percent in the previous year.
This surge has caused dropped data and voice calls to increase by 121 percent, with the most under pressure areas experiencing a dropped call rate of 17 percent. The white paper said the likelihood of dropped calls did "often" depend on a person's handset.
Voice calls also increased, but not as dramatically as data, with a rise of 16 percent. Indoor usage increased by 33 percent although Amdocs warned this would have a "significant" impact on customer experience, with indoor data users experiencing a drop in data throughput of up to 50 percent.
Customers' expectations around data has lead to greater frustrations with networks. The report found 47 percent of customers were angry about a lack of data coverage, 30 percent were unhappy about limits on usage and a sixth were disgruntled about download costs.
Smartphones bought in 2013 were consuming seven times more data than those launched four years previously. The iPhone 4, 4s and 5 accounted for almost 60 percent of all data traffic in European networks in October 2013. According to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, 19 percent of all smartphones sold in Europe’s top five economies were iOS devices.
Amdocs said while 4G LTE can help to improve the customer experience, it does not increase data traffic “exponentially”. It takes less than half as long to establish a 4G LTE data session compared to 3G but the report found usage patterns were broadly similar to those in 3G networks.
Amdocs analysed more than four million voice and data connections from over 100,000 devices in putting together its report.
Rebecca Prudhomme, vice president of product and solutions marketing at Amdocs, commented: “The research shows that the move to LTE/ 4G provides an opportunity to improve the customer experience without exponentially increasing data demand. Service providers need to address this challenge by implementing planning and optimisation solutions to manage an increasingly active subscriber base that not only wants to consume data but produce and share it in real time.”
The research follows that of Arieso, which said in January that operators were reaching "boiling point" over data demands on their networks.