How mobile network usage differs among demographics

A new report breaks down the recent explosion of data generated on smartphones to show differences in mobile networking trends among demographics.

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Mobile device data use has tripled in the last two years, a new report says, but not that much data is on mobile data networks, in comparison to Wi-Fi.

U.S. smartphone users consumed an average of 9.7 GB of data per month during the first half of 2015. But "only 1.6 GB per month, or 17 percent of the total data, was generated on cellular networks," research firm Strategy Analytics says.


In 2015, total U.S. smartphone data traffic is projected to be 25.3 Exabytes. In 2013, it was 8.3 Exabytes, according to the research firm.

The company uses a system that observes mobile data on smartphones along with a telemetry platform. An exabyte is a billion gigabytes.

Demographics analysis

The report, based on 3,000 panel members, also revealed differences in usage among ethnic groups:

  • It found that the Black ethnic group used more data overall than any other racial group. Individuals in the Black ethnic group used 11.2 GB per month.
  • Hispanics used 10.3 GB per month.
  • The White racial group came in third in its use of data, at 9.4 GB per individual per month.
  • The Asian ethnic group was last, at 9.3 GB per individual per month.

Wi-Fi preferences

Members of the White racial group racial group used the least amount of Wi-Fi.

"At a user level, Whites realize the lowest traffic on Wi-Fi networks," according to the report. But on Wi-Fi, the group is now the second-fastest-growing segment behind Asians, the report reckons.

Hispanics, as the second largest data-using ethnic group, "underperform African Americans in overall traffic generated on cellular networks," it says.

How this data shapes marketing

The authors of the report think that marketers at Mobile Network Operators and MVNOs should take note of the findings. Distinct traffic patterns exist between ethnic groups and their use of Wi-Fi and/or mobile networks.

Some mobile operators do gear their plans to distinct demographics, according to Strategy Analytics.

"Our data suggests that service plans geared towards African Americans and Hispanics show distinct traffic patterns on both cellular and Wi-Fi networks," it says.

"The most notable among these offerings are the Unlimited Plans from Boost Mobile and the Pay-As-You-Go options from Tracfone," Bonny Joy, head of consumer telemetry platforms at Strategy Analytics, says in the report.

Wi-Fi as default for voice

"Our data indicates consumers are increasingly relying on Wi-Fi for data traffic," says Barry Gilbert, Vice President of Strategy Analytics.

The researcher says that its data shows browsing, entertainment, and social apps contribute to the largest share of data traffic.

The data traffic in the report covers all IP-based traffic generated through smartphones.

Wi-Fi growing faster

But probably the most important statistic uncovered by the report, is that Wi-Fi use on smartphones is simply growing faster than cellular mobile networks.

"Wi-Fi traffic is growing at more than double the rate of cellular traffic across all ethnicities," the report says.

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