Why The % is So Meaningless

These days I see a lot of talk in the press about rising wireless data consumption. To make things more spectacular, things don't double, no they rise by 100% (or by 200% or by 400% [insert your own % here]). Sounds much more dramatic, no? But what's even worse is that without a base from which the rise is calculated, it's completely meaningless. And usually that base is not given.

Here's an example: Let's say network use was 1%. Doubling that brings the network use to 2%. That's a lot isn't it? 100% more but the network is still sitting around doing pretty much nothing. But 100% more…(Note: Agreed, I've selected the other extreme for my example here…)

Also, such numbers kind of suggest that things will continue to grow at the same rate or even faster and the numbers are set in a light that suggests operators are in real trouble in the very near future. But that's also a wrong assumption. At some point everybody has 5 phones, several 3G dongles, etc. and bandwidth needs will mainly grow with more use from the same number of people and devices. And how much growth that requires is a different story again.

But one thing is clear, mobile operators need to increase the capacity of their networks over time to keep up with the demand. But then that's not much different from what fixed line operators do to keep up with the demand for high speed Internet connections. Maybe they have to do even more with digging up roads, putting new fibers in, etc. From a different point of view they are even doing the ground work for wireless network capacity extensions as they will also benefit from the fibers in the ground.

4 thoughts on “Why The % is So Meaningless”

  1. Another game that carriers play, at least in the United States, is rolling SMS in their data growth and revenue numbers. As everyone knows, SMS is insanely profitable on a $/byte basis, so when “true” data and SMS are bundled together, it helps to obscure the carriers’ failure to make much (if any) money on mobile broadband.

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