Survey: Video dominates mobile traffic

Streaming video, led by YouTube, was the biggest use of mobile data capacity in the first half of this year

Video streaming made up 39 percent of all mobile data traffic worldwide in the first half of this year, and YouTube accounted for a majority of that video traffic, according to a survey by traffic management vendor Allot Communications.

Overall mobile data volume grew 77 percent in the first half, with growth accelerating slightly from 73 percent in the second half of 2010, the survey results said. Allot surveys its customer mobile operators twice a year. The first-half report included statistics gathered from operators in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, with a collective subscriber base of 250 million, according to Allot.

YouTube alone accounted for 22 percent of all mobile bandwidth consumption in the first half, up from 17 percent in the second half of 2010. It had a 52 percent share of mobile streaming video, and mobile use of YouTube increased 152 percent in the period.

File-sharing consumed the second-biggest share of mobile bandwidth, at 29 percent, followed by Web browsing at 25 percent. Instant-messaging and voice over IP (Internet Protocol) made up 4 percent, and all other mobile apps combined accounted for just 3 percent of traffic, the survey said.

All major uses of mobile data grew, with video increasing 93 percent while the growth of file sharing slowed to 33 percent. The use of IM and VoIP grew by 101 percent, partly because more phones and tablets have front-facing cameras for video-enhanced VoIP, Allot said.

Skype dominated VoIP even more than YouTube did the mobile video world. The service, which recently agreed to be acquired by Microsoft, made up 82 percent of all VoIP traffic. Windows Live was in a distant second place with 3 percent. But the mobile IM market was more competitive, with Yahoo Messenger making up 29 percent of the traffic, just ahead of Windows Live with 25 percent. The Chinese-language IM application QQ was third most active at 18 percent, while Google Talk made up 12 percent of IM volume.

Social networking also consumed a growing amount of mobile data capacity, with mobile Twitter use shooting up 297 percent in terms of bandwidth and Facebook increasing 166 percent.

Apple's App Store dominated sales of new mobile applications, accounting for 84 percent of all app downloads in the period. The Android Market saw downloads increase 196 percent in the first half but still only controlled 13 percent of the market, according to the survey.

Carriers are responding to the rapid growth of data traffic by clamping down on unlimited service plans, which can have the effect of encouraging subscribers to put an even greater load on networks. Among the carriers surveyed, 51 percent no longer offer unlimited plans, according to Allot. In addition, 32 percent of the operators used "application-aware" charging systems, such as allowing a subscriber to use a certain app without being charged for data consumed.

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