To keep up with demand, U.S. wireless networks have traditionally doubled their capacity every 30 months, but this trend may not keep up with future demand, argues Michael Kleeman of the Global Information Industry Center at the University of California San Diego.

“We have reached a point of disconnect between the capacity of wireless networks and the emerging needs of today’s customers,” says Kleeman. Spectrum deficit

The volume of data traffic on U.S. networks is expected to increase by 1,800 percent over the next four years, the study estimates. By the end of 2011, video content will jump to 60 percent of network data volume.

According to another estimate, mobile video will more than double every year between 2010 and 2015 and account for two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic by 2015, the study suggests.

According to estimates, mobile data traffic in the U.S. was approximately 6 petabytes per month in 2008, 40 petabytes per month in 2010, and it is expected to reach 451 petabytes per month by 2013.

To understand the impact that even minor shifts in consumer behavior, and especially shifts in our consumption of video, could have for the U.S. wireless network, consider the contrast between U.S. video consumption and the capacity of our nation’s mobile networks.

U.S. viewers average nearly five hours of TV viewing per day (107,705 minutes per year) and as a nation we consume 1,266 exabytes of TV per year (1,266,000 petabytes).
Compare this to the output of U.S. mobile data networks, which transmitted approximately .48 exabytes (480 petabytes) in 2010 over the course of the entire year.

That means the U.S. wireless data network’s entire 2010 throughput was only sufficient to handle less than a day’s worth of the nation’s video consumption.

No matter what people hope will happen on 4G networks, the immediate implication will be much-greater consumption of video.

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