Demand for global mobile data bandwidth soared 73% in the back half of 2010 fuelling a near 200% rise in usage over the course of the year, according to the Allot's latest report into the state of the market.
Data compiled from statistics from the firm's carrier customers shows that overall demand grew 190% in 2010, with the bulk of the growth fuelled by video streaming services, which grew 94% in the July to December period alone.
That growth left video at the top of the pile of mobile broadband applications with a 37% share of the total market during 2H10, ahead of file sharing on 30%, web browsing (26%), and VoIP and instant messaging (4%).
Jonathon Gordon, Allot's marketing director, told Telecom Asia the bulk of video traffic is over-the-top services like "YouTube, CNN or the [BBC's] iPlayer."
Indeed, YouTube dominated streaming video during 2H10, growing 190% and accounting for 45% of all streamed video on mobile networks.
Gordon said the high demand for video streaming could fuel a step-change in operator's strategy, like that currently being implemented by Orange as it transitions from being a pure network provider to a content aggregator and distributor. While conceding Orange's approach is beyond the focus of Allot's report, Gordon noted it is "an interesting strategy."
What is certain is that operators must start communicating the different value of mobile data services to the customer, which Gordon believes is best achieved through tiered tariffs. He notes that all bandwidth used to be limited, so the recent trend away from unlimited data bundles among mobile carriers - kick-started by Verizon in the middle of last year - isn't unexpected.
"It's about [operators] putting their house in order and optimizing their networks. It's part of the solution." By better communicating the value of the services available, tiered pricing can help operators manage subscriber's expectations regarding the quality of service they can expect.
That focus on quality highlights one of the main take-aways from Allot's report - namely that more capacity alone will not a customer's heart win.