That Little or That Much?! Mobile Devices Now Account for 8.5% of Internet Traffic

Mobile Web Browsing
By Chris Umiastowski on 9 Feb 2012 08:07 pm EST
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Earlier this week, as I was doing my usual reading of mobile industry news, I came across this article from PaidContent.org, talking about how much traffic on the Internet comes from mobile devices.

It turns out that, according to StatCounter, mobile devices are responsible for 8.5% of all website visits as of January 2012. The PaidContent article opens by basically saying that mobile Internet usage is "lagging behind".

The article bugged me enough to prompt this post. Sure, mobile traffic "only" accounts for 8.5% of total traffic. But it's up from 4.3% one year ago. Yes folks, mobile Internet use is growing at nearly double the rate of non-mobile use.

Now let's think a bit longer term. Where was mobile 5 years ago? Pretty well nowhere. BlackBerry browsers were pitiful. The iPhone hadn't launched yet. Neither had Android. Safe to say the Internet was as close to 100% non-mobile as it gets.

And what about 5 years from now? Where will mobile be? I don't know the exact answer, but I wouldn't be surprised if the mobile Internet continues to grow at nearly double the rate of non-mobile.

We're on the verge of a global rollout of 4G LTE networks that are IP-centric and don't rely on legacy TDM technology. They deliver speed we didn't even dream was possible 10 years ago.

Also, the majority of the planet is still not using a smartphone. That will change dramatically in the next 5 years.

It seems to me that mobile Internet use is not "lagging" at all. It's actually far outgrowing the growth of non-mobile Internet use. And if this continues, carriers are going to be running into bandwidth bottlenecks.

RIM has always prided itself on the efficiency of the BlackBerry platform. But you don't get such rapid growth of bandwidth consumption based on people using more email or BBM. It comes from web traffic and social media, which includes embedded media. CrackBerry.com is a perfect example of the former. Just look at how many of today's posts come along with an embedded YouTube video. That's where the real bandwidth demands are coming from. It's not the HTML, CSS or even the images on the site that chew through the megabits.

At Mobile World Congress in 2010, Mike Lazaridis did a keynote address talking about the coming bandwidth crunch facing mobile operators. Here we are two years later and it's clear that mobile traffic is growing like crazy. Will Lazaridis prove to be correct? Maybe. Carriers who don't have a ton of spectrum inventory will have a hard time keeping up in a 4G world.

But will BlackBerry have an advantage over other platforms? Here the argument is not as strong, in my opinion. Sure, RIM can compress email and web traffic. But they can't really compress video traffic unless they transcode it on the fly in the NOC. And that's not something I see them even talking about doing.

I'm operating under the assumption that bandwidth efficiency can't be part of RIM's sales pitch in the future. That's why I'm happy to see the company moving full force to a QNX-based operating system that gives users the horsepower they've been asking for to truly enjoy the mobile Internet.

It's growing like crazy. May as well embrace it, right?

Reader comments

That Little or That Much?! Mobile Devices Now Account for 8.5% of Internet Traffic

23 Comments

from the way apple fans and apple PR goes on you would think that iOS devices alone accounted for 90% of internet traffic.

Ultimately we will all be using "mobile" devices nearly all the time.

Probably not; I think the figure is quite sensible and the figure will probably never reach 30% due to the fact that heavy browsing would still be quite troublesome on a mobile device and apps would replace a certain amount of that traffic on mobile devices (the figure is website visit, not data transferred).

Web browsing on a computer for an hour is easy, but web browsing on a mobile device for an entire hour is just tiring for the eyes, the fingers and the arms.

90% of 8.5% of the entire internet traffic in the world?! If we did that, the site will certainly not be able to handle it. Not to mention what a dull and irrational world it is that 90% of 8.5% of the entire internet traffic in the world only read tips and reviews of a specific handset brand and not use it for anything else. I don't think the internet's invented for this.

Mobile tech is growing fast... Might as well embrace it. Soon retailers in stores will be utilizing mobile phones and QR tags with NFC to make shopping more efficent. Embrace the movement, I just hope RIM can keep up!

If it keeps growing like this, within 5 years people won't even use non-mobile devices anymore. I actually don't find that too hard to believe, since mobile devices keep getting faster and faster and more capable, and already at this point with the PlayBook you can plug it into an HDTV and navigate with a BlueTooth keyboard/mouse. Is this the future of computers? Would we even need the cloud when we can have one device be our tablet, our computer, our media player, etc., connected wirelessly for file and data sharing to our other device (phone) we use for portable communication? Will tablets ever become capable enough to handle this (for the record, I think the PlayBook CAN, even though it might not)? By that point what is a mobile device anymore?

Sorry for going so off topic. Just had a thought and went with it.

I find your point valid. Let's look back 5 to 10 years and just think when did a phone stop beeing a phone? It use to just make calls and text, and now they are mobile solutions that the average person can do everything on. I hardly use my desktop anymore, its all on tablets and my phone.

I'm curious how these numbers came about. Some mobile devices can be set to render full web pages 100% of the time so how can you determine whether it was a desktop, tablet, or phone? I don't know much about tech but it seems like that number is way too low. I know there is a setting on my phone(9930) where you can "hide" yourself as being detected as a mobile device. Someone correct me..

Where would one find this setting? I've been going to mobile sites which don't have an option to change to the desktop version which is very frustrating on some websites that I visit.

With my old Storm 2, you could set the browser identifier to be looked at, as IE or Firefox or as a Blackberry browser.

Now with my new bb7 device, I have no idea where that option went. I'd love to know, myself!

We'll never go towards something like 90% will be all mobile in the future. That just won't happen, at least within the next few decades. Something, somewhere, has to host all the data that comprises the internet or the "cloud" (i despise that term)

So all the servers out there won't go away anytime soon. From a consumer standpoint, the percentile will increase...but I still don't think it will ever get that high. There's way too big of a gaming community for both PC (and somewhat Mac) that cannot port over to mobile. The underlying internet connection might be tethered, but the device itself won't.

Just a few thoughts.

I'm part of that 8.5%. I'm always accessing the internet on my playbook when I'm mobile.

Devices like the playbook will make web browsing mobile...especially with it's top-notch html5 capability.

I find smartphone screens are too small for a satisfying web browsing experience. Thanks RIM for the pb!

What is considered a mobile device? 10 inch Sony Viao? Mac Air Book? 7 inch Acer net book? There are some laptops and net books out there that are more mobile than some tablets. Where are they drawing the line?

I'm not surprised. Mobile internet is getting faster and as its speed improves and smart phones become the standard I'm sure that number will continue to grow.

I dunno, but I think at this point, we're pretty sure that our tech is heading towards miniaturization and mobile tech; I find this a good thing. Ever since the PC / Mac was invented, we were always infront of our monitors and sitting on our desks. It was rather unhealthy...

At least if we can "mobilize" stuff as much, we can still do our daily stuff sans the Desktop. We don't get to sit on one spot and we too can be mobile as well. Information gets passed faster and no more dungeon dwellers XD.

Just my 2 cents XD.

Mike Lazarides was right expecially when you consider data hog phones. Still, that is what people want.
I think we will continue to climb towards the 30% mark. Faster, larger, more powerful handheld devices are making this possible.
The desktop is still king and will always be a major player but will continue to lose market share on the web.

The question is: will we be more informed and wiser? I'm not certain. We will have more information faster but the user's reflection and quality of information may not continue to climb. People will be tempted to add video to books and other things that will continue to stuff users with wow factor but little user value beyond that.

When you add the fact that Netflix is a major application that people want we are probably going to waste more time on the devices that increase productivity.

If people were rational and used just logic, most everyone would have a BlackBerry. It is more secure, has the best e-mail and messaging, and the new OS7 BB's are just awesome. However, people want Netflix, they want games and they want to be entertained. At least in the U.S. most don't care about data efficiency or security.

One of BlackBerry's major strategic errors was to provide people with productivity tools that were secure. They gave us what we needed but not what we wanted. Now, that is changing and I'm glad to see that BlackBerry is not overshooting here.

BB could help bump that number if they ever decided to come back and help us deserted OS5 users by at least giving us a better browser.

I'm assuming that the term "mobile internet" here is referring to 3g and the like and not wifi. I think a lot of people use their mobile devices for the internet but tap into wifi. With wifi at home and public wifi hotspots increasing and wifi being faster than 3g (in my experience anyways), i can see why only 8.5% is registered as mobile. If carriers can't keep up with 3/4g, it might be time to to install more local wifi hotspots. I find Rogers is pretty good, but Bell only seems to have Starbucks and McDonald's. I'm not sure how it is in the states. Just my thoughts.