Mobile data surpasses voice traffic

It’s true: people are using their phones less and less to actually make calls. A new report from Ericsson says that data usage has eclipsed voice traffic.

According to industry-wide numbers that Ericsson tracked, over the last 2 years the amount of data traffic throughout the world has expanded by 280%.

During a media event at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg said that voice traffic accounts for about 140,000 terabytes of data sent through the wireless networks every month. For the first time, though, data transmissions are ahead of that, though Vestberg did not say by how much.

On one day alone, the 2010 Chinese New Year, more than 23 billion texts were sent…in just one day. That’s just one example of how people are now holding their phones out in front of them instead of up to their ears.

“This is a significant milestone with some 400 million mobile broadband subscriptions now generating more data traffic than the voice traffic from the total 4.6 billion mobile  subscriptions around the world,” said Vestberg.

It’s a tricky area for the mobile industry, because margins of voice traffic are much higher than they are on data traffic. If it gets to the point where data really swallows voice usage, consumers may start seeing new pricing structures for data.

Some mobile operators are even suggesting that the days of unlimited data are over, especially when the 4G and LTE networks are fully deployed.