The New 99%

Are you part of the 99%? No, I’m not speaking of the political movement that is sweeping the nation, but the bottom 99% of mobile data users. Mobile consultant firm Arieso studied the data habits of a European wireless operator, and through its findings it projects the top one percent of mobile data users use half of the world’s available bandwidth. The top ten percent use 90 percent.

Just like our widening income disparity in the US, the gap in bandwidth usage also grows. In the same study two years ago, Arieso projected the top 1% was using 40 percent, while the top ten percent consumed 70 percent. So, it’s pretty obvious that these bandwidth-hungry users are increasingly putting a strain on mobile networks.

Don’t blame the smartphone users completely, though. A majority of these megausers are connecting to wireless networks via laptops (64 percent). The number on mobile phones or tablets pales in comparison: about 33 percent were on smartphones, while three percent get online via tablets like the iPad.

Much has been made of the move away from unlimited data among the carriers. While for some of us it is an incovenience, a large majority of us will never exceed those caps. Data like Arieso shows clearly why the free lunch had to end: networks are being strained by these users degrading service to the rest of us, yet they pay no more than you or me.

Don’t you think it’s fair that these folks pony up a bit more since they’re using the network more? I sure do. Use the argument of the 99%ers as an allegory. They’re arguing for millionaires to pony up. What makes bandwidth hogs any different?

[Hat Tip: New York Times]

Be the first to comment

  1. Bouke Timbermont January 6, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    If these people are using laptops this means they are paying for a contract for a laptop (using a 3G USB-modem or something), since there has been a major crackdown on 'unauthorized' tethering through smartphones.

    So I actually don't think these people are doing anything wrong: they are using a product the way it was sold to them.

  2. Bouke Timbermont January 6, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    Also, if these numbers are European, they included a HUGE amount of users that actually don't use ANY bandwidth at all:
    In belgium, but it's the same in most EU countries, prepaid contracts are still the most popular of all, and most of those come with a tiny amount of free data (say 10MB/month). Most people don't use any of that (because they don't need/want to: therefore they chose a data-free prepaid contract) but since they have access to mobile internet, they are included in these numbers.

    Heck, even if they do use that: 10MB is only enough to check wikipedia 2 times an launch google maps once.
    imo, <25MB/month users should be excluded from these numbers. THEN you should see a hugely different picture.

  3. Bouke Timbermont January 6, 2012 at 1:54 am #

    But to come to your closing question: yes, I think it's fair to charge heavy users more. BUT telco's are exaggerating the situation extremely to justify a huge pricehike.
    I'm absolutely not against data caps, I don't even think unlimited should be an option, since a literally unlimited plan is something a provider can't actually deliver… But current prices are ridiculous.
    A regular 3G plan should give users 1GB of data without having to pay a premium price. Low-end users should get 250 MB, which is just enough to surf, mail, whatsapp etc, and maybe the occasional YT video.
    And going over your cap shouldn't result in huge fees: 1c/MB seems reasonable to me.

    In short: metered billing is in fact the right thing to do. But it cannot be the lame excuse for a huge pricehike on all contracts it currently is.

  4. Pete Austin January 6, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    Peak Time useage is what matters, because then people are competing for resources. The peak time usage by these misnamed "Bandwidth Hogs" will be about the same as everyone else – because of this competition – certainly a lot less than 70%.

    Off-peak useage is basically free, because the equipment is paid for, so why should people be penalised for using it?

  5. Zenfire January 6, 2012 at 3:52 am #

    Is there research showing this correlation between data usage and clogging the pipes? Well, actually the recent researched showed this wasn’t true. But why let facts get in the way of a good class warfare meme.

  6. Cathy January 6, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    They paid for unlimited usage, how dare they use it! As a Time Warner client I'm amazed that they started talking about home usage caps right after they released an app that let us watch TV via our iPad. Talk about the left hand not knowing what the right is doing!

  7. The_Heraclitus January 6, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    "Use the argument of the 99%ers as an allegory. They’re arguing for millionaires to pony up. What makes bandwidth hogs any different?"

    Because, the millionaires already pay FAR, FAR, more than the lower tiers. So, other than NOT being correct at all, it's the "same".


  8. Hans January 8, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    the mobile carieres are those that ask unreasonably amounts of cash

    in romania we have 4 different providers and each of them uses for e USB sticks prices like 5-15E/month with 2-3 GB data. at the end is unlimited with a cap on 128kb (= 16KB ). ther eis one provider which is fair and asks for 0.3 euro / month / 5 GB which is a pretty fair price. the same provider offers on fiber a price like 10 euro/month for a package like this :
    digital tv ( 110channels) + fiber internet ( 10MB = 100 mbps over their netwrok and like 4 mbps = 512 KB on internet) + 1 gsm phone ( 1000 minute sin network / very low price outside) + 1 USB stick with 5 GB /month for internet on laptops.

    even with those very high speeds there is no congestion because they use fiber all over. so ask you mobile provider to invest in their network before telling they have problems because of people, is the other … people have problems because of the stupid carriers that can`t think of better resource ditribution