4G Driving Social Media Use


Social media traffic is growing, driven by the speed and convenience of 4G and the increased functionality of social networks. While social media activity is also growing on 3G, the growth is much quicker on 4G networks, and 40% of 4GEE customers say they access social media on their mobile handsets more since switching to 4G than they did before.

4G and social media

These figures come from the latest 4GEE Mobile Living Index which looks at the 4G network during the first half of 2014. The report combines data from the network with results from an EE customer survey.

The report shows that social media activity now accounts for a quarter of all traffic on the 4GEE network, a significant rise from the 12% of the previous year. This is largely driven by the launch of Facebook’s embedded video in August 2013, and the growth of networks such as Twitter and Instagram. While social media use is also growing on 3G networks, users tend to use 4G for more data intensive sessions involving videos, pictures, and downloads.

Here are a couple of examples of social media traffic peaks on EE’s 4G network:

Social media during the World Cup

Unfortunately the World Cup wasn’t a great tournament for England, so the biggest peaks in overall network traffic didn’t come during their games. However there was a noticeable increase in social media traffic, with Facebook traffic spiking 28% during half time of the England Uruguay match. There was also a peak when Tim Cahill scored a superb goal for Australia against Holland in the group stages and football fans watched replays over and over on social media sites.

Social media during the tube strike

There was an overall increase in network traffic during the 48 hour London Underground strikes as commuters made use of 4G to find out information or an alternative route to the office. 12% more London commuters used their 4G phones during rush hour than on a typical day, and they consumed 18% more data. Although the biggest increase was in mapping services, there were also spikes in social media activity as commuters commented on their journeys, gave advice, or shared opinions. Facebook saw an increase in traffic of 8.5% while Twitter saw an increase of 14%.

According to Olaf Swantee, CEO of EE, “Looking at trends from the last year, the biggest news is the swift rise of social media, driven by embedded video. Social media now accounts for a quarter of all our 4G network activity. In March last year it was only 12%. Facebook’s embedded videos and the continuing growth of companies like Twitter and Instagram – and their requirement for superfast connectivity – mean that 4G has become a huge enabler for keeping people online.”

Instant messaging services are also being widely used on 4G networks and the biggest news of 2014 so far has been the growth of Tango. This service is often used to send pictures and video and accounted for less than 1% of all 4G instant messaging traffic at the end of 2013. This figure has now grown to 16% of 4G instant messaging traffic, taking a big chunk out of WhatsApp’s share.