Are iDevices a guest WLAN’s best friends?

A quick look at the June and July usage statistics from the Milton Public Library guest wireless network reveals some interesting statistics regarding device usage versus data usage. Based on the past two months, iDevices (iPhones, iPods, and iPads) tend to have a much smaller data usage footprint than standard laptops.

First let’s look at the number of unique devices that connected to the guest WLAN in the month of July. Not surprisingly, iDevices accounted for 45% of all devices using the guest network. This can be attributed to the portability of these devices compared to standard laptops.

When we look at the total data usage by device type we see that iDevices only accounted for 19% of the total while laptops accounted for a disproportionate 80% of all data usage in July. This indicates that, while more popular and abundant, iDevices are not putting as much load on the guest WLAN infrastructure and data pipe as standard laptops.

Why the discrepancy?

There are several reasons why iDevices currently use far less data than their laptop counterparts:

  1. Mobile versions of videos and other web-content are generally smaller than the full-sized, HD versions being consumed by laptops.
  2. Application updates on laptops are generally much larger than on iDevices.
  3. OS updates can occur wirelessly on laptops and not on iDevices (this will be changing very shortly in iOS 5).
  4. People tend to use laptops and desktops as their primary file-sharing platforms rather than iDevices due to functionality and storage limitations. That being said, peer-to-peer networking did not make the top 10 list of apps used on the MPL guest WLAN thanks to some well-defined traffic shaping rules.

What’s Next?

Apple’s iCloud service might take iDevices from ‘low data consumption’ status to ‘high data consumption’ status in the next few months to come. There is potential for a huge increase in data usage for these devices as more and more people take advantage of iCloud’s music syncing service. The month of June saw iTunes related traffic account for 3.3% of all guest WLAN usage. This grew to 8.2% in the month of July. It will be interesting to see just how much higher this percentage will climb in the near future. If the climb does occur, iDevices may be shifted from the ‘best friend’ category to the ‘worst enemy’ category rather quickly.

Dan C.

I would like to thank the Milton Public Library for allowing me to reference their WLAN statistics. Without their assistance, this post would not have been possible. If you have any questions or thoughts on this post please leave a comment.



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