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Sharp Rise In Mobile Data Use

The demand for mobile connectivity is pushing the amount of data being sent over Wi-Fi networks ever higher, new figures from wireless network access firm WeFi reveal.

Among the main findings of the WeFi Analytics Report Q2/2010: An Analysis of Global Wi-Fi was a massive rise in the amount of data being sent to and from smartphones over Wi-Fi.

The Android platform in particular saw tremendous growth, with 30 per cent of Android platforms consuming 500MB to 2GB of data and 20 per cent going over 2GB.

Breaking down the figures for Android phones further reveals that 35 per cent of devices monitored were in the US, while the UK accounted for just six per cent.

Symbian devices are also gobbling up data, according to the report, with 32 per cent of devices running the platform consuming between 100MB and 500MB a month, up from 20 per cent in Q1, while 10 per cent use over 2GB on Wi-Fi connections.

Vice president of marketing and products at WeFi, Amit Shaked, said he was surprised by how much data consumption on Android phones had grown, and said he thought this trend was only set to continue.

"We did expect the trend of Android phones consuming more Wi-Fi to grow, but we were surprised by the magnitude of growth from Q1 to Q2," he said.

"A key conjecture is that because it is easy for users to get connected to Wi-Fi they will always prefer Wi-Fi over 3G and use it as long as they can, which means Wi-Fi is becoming a viable fabric for mobile data offloading."

The research also provides some interesting insights into how Symbian users access the internet, with 70 per cent of all connections lasting between zero and five minutes, a far higher figure than for any other device or platform.

This initially suggested that Symbian users do not see their platform as being conducive to long browsing sessions. However, on closer inspection, it is "related to the Wi-Fi

connectivity scheme of the Symbian operating system, which sustains the Wi-Fi network connection only as long as a particular application is using it", the report said.

Nevertheless, despite this growth in smartphones, laptops and netbooks remain the heaviest users of Wi-Fi, with almost 90 per cent of laptops and 80 per cent of netbooks using over 2GB of data per connection.

The report doesn't contain any information on iPhone usage as since February WeFi has been unable to scan for Wi-Fi information on the iOS platform.

WeFi's Shaked added, though, that he thought iPhone figures would be below that of Android devices due to technical reasons, but said he would still have expected to see an increase in usage.

"The iPhone OS is limited relative to Android in terms of networking flexibility and background processing, so even if users actively seek Wi-Fi they are less likely to stay connected when they switch between apps and move about, " he said.

"But we would expect to see growth of Wi-Fi usage nonetheless, for similar reasons: more apps that need mobile bandwidth, uses seeking out Wi-Fi more actively to reduce roaming charges and the availability of free hotspot."

Although the study is not completely comprehensive, with 60 million Wi-Fi points contributing data it certainly provides an interesting snapshot of the state of the Wi-Fi market.

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