Picturing 30 Years of Progress

I was talking to the Sunday Times about mobile data rates when it struck me how far we've come in recent years. Back during the mobile industry's analogue days, the most you could squeeze out of a mobile modem was a meagre 2.4 Kbps. Data calls were measured by the minute, not the megabyte, and large transfers would probably have involved a call to your bank manager first.

Fast forward to 2011 and network operators offer "unlimited" data packages, and people seem intent on downloading as much as they can. So much so that some operators have started to cut back data allowances; in January, T-Mobile in the UK tried to halve allowances and then had to backtrack as subscribers made it plain they preferred existing limits. Yet even at half current levels, the amount of data you can transfer over a mobile connection is staggering by 1980s' standards.

This was really brought home to me when during our call the paper asked me to depict the changes in mobile modem speeds over the past 30 years. Any graph would have to go from 2.4 Kbps to at least 10 Mbps — an increase by a factor of more than 4,000. Initially, I was unsure how to create a meaningful image. Like a time-traveller from the 1980s who suddenly found himself in 2011, I found it hard to really take in the gigantic numbers involved.

mobile_data_speedsThen I remembered a graph produced by the Open Knowledge Foundation showing levels of UK government spending. This combines huge and not-so-huge amounts by plotting them as areas.

By taking the same approach to wireless data speeds, I produced an infographic that conveys the advances of the last three decades and depicted speed as a kind of pipe. Even then, the chart (shown on the right) shows 4G networks with a 10Mbps maximum; if it were to show the 300 Mbps speeds that some operators are touting, the pre-4G "pipes" would be even smaller in comparison.

Given the size of these "pipes", network operator's fears of capacity overload come into perspective. We've come so far since the 1980s, and yet we still can't give everyone access to everything, everywhere (with apologies to T-Mobile UK's parent company; if the owner of the country's largest combined network has to cut data allowances, it suggests an industry-wide problem).

We've long argued that network sharing is a sensible step for many operators. A collaborative approach built the Internet, just as arguments about net neutrality threaten to undo that good work. As the network operators prepare to gather at Mobile World Congress, let's hope they have room in their suitcases for some cooperation.

This entry was posted on February 1st, 2011 and is filed under Services. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Posted By Robert Caunt On February 1st, 2011


Comments
(There are no comments yet)
Leave a Comment

Hot News

Team Tweets

CCS Insight
Did Samsung's part ownership of Corning give it an early lead on Gorilla Glass 4? http://t.co/az7AL875cf
Follow CCS Insight
Shaun Collins
RT @Metro: Wat gaan we op tech- en gadgetgebied in 2015 zien? Trendwatcher @sandertje en @shauncollins vertellen het - http://t.co/7q5mgw2c…
Follow Shaun
Ben Wood
The end of 2014 #wearables fire sale seems to have started already... http://t.co/MX0Q7YPxro
Follow Ben
Martin Garner
@Microsoft sells @MixRadio to LINE http://t.co/WyRntN0tOq - good fit with user base in Asia + a parent with suitably high ambitions for it
Follow Martin
Geoff Blaber
@charlesarthur relative to 12 mths ago it's far more stable. It's a moot point tho. Rev must grow & it's reliant on service not hware l.term
Follow Geoff
Nicholas McQuire
"2015 is end of beginning 4 mobility & beginning of end 4 traditional enterprise computing stack". Good stuff @orege https://t.co/9G4V8Hy9Lp
Follow Nicholas
Arnaud Gagneux
RT @O2: I’m voting for Flash Gordon to be the #O2Priority film screened with @BFI: http://t.co/80iekaho8f #BFIFlashGordon http://t.co/nM87f…
Follow Arnaud
Paolo Pescatore
Start of something bigger, possible marriage between @VodafoneGroup & @SkyCorporate given recent news #ccspredicts http://t.co/famA9ZPR4v
Follow Paolo
Marina Koytcheva
RT @CCSInsight: CCS Insight updates forecast: pressure builds on mobile phone makers as average price declines http://t.co/G0TJY71Tha http:…
Follow Marina
Kester Mann
Jostling for position on the high-street. What have been the tactics of UK operators this Xmas? My latest blog: http://t.co/5nksEhLlAL
Follow Kester
Jasdeep Badyal
Great #Wearables show&tell by @George_CCS and @benwood of some of the products tracked by @CCSInsight #ccspredicts http://t.co/w9wWqaGpeC
Follow Jasdeep
George Jijiashvili
@YodelOnline Luckily I got home today - so yes, but it wouldn't have stayed there for very long as I live on fairly busy road.
Follow George
Rebecca Morley
RT @benwood: Huge amount of interest in Wearables showcase at #ccspredicts. Occlus Rift, Gear VR, smartwatches, jewellery & more http://t.c…
Follow Rebecca

Recent Blog Posts

Blog Post
Samsung's Strong Supply Chain The Device-Maker Takes an Early Lead with Gorilla Glass 4 ... Read more
Blog Post
Micromax Challenges Mi with Yu Low-Cost 4G CyanogenMod-Based Smartphone for India On 1... Read more
Blog Post
Flic of the Switch The Single Button Theory of Usability Dig deep, it's in... Read more
More blog

Latest Company News

Blog Post
Global 3D Printers Market Worth $4.8 Billion in 2018 CCS Insight expects strong growth of 60% per year to deliver... Read more
More news