According to an article on GigaOm, by 2012 mobile will generate up to an exabyte of traffic per month! Just to illustrate, this is an exabyte: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. The prediction is part of Cisco’s Visual Networking Index which offers up many dimensions of how the Internet will grow and what will drive that growth.
This is all fine and dandy, but Om also makes the same observation that I’ve written about several times as the biggest barrier to the emerging Exabyte Age…the carrier business model and economics. The carriers have yet to make a quantum leap in how they charge for mobile data and are still generally hovering at hard limits for monthly usage on mobile data plans, Cricket Wireless Unlimited 3G Broadband notwithstanding. The tier-1 carriers in North America (ATT, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint) can’t seem to figure out the attractiveness of family plans for mobile broadband. They don’t seem to be doing the price elasticity analyses on how they will get more subscribers with more of an appetite to consume new services and value-add applications (see ANY iPhone Appstore article) thereby creating an additive effect for ARPU which would probably yield more positive results than they’re seeing today. In fact, it’s ALL about the services and apps to drive adoption from the Average Joe mobile subscriber who, even in a down and miserable economy, still seems to prioritize his mobile services above other everyday conveniences, like his morning latte at Starbucks (sorry, Starbucks).
When will the operators wake up and smell the coffee (to extend the frivolous pun already constructed)? Maybe it’s just a matter of time. Such as when 4G gets deployed offering better price/performance/bit economics for the operators. But are they really that concerned with the load on their 3G networks? Is this reality or a smokescreen?