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Wednesday, December 08, 2010, 07:55 am PT (10:55 am ET)

iPhone data use measured, carriers want Apple to pay for network upgrades

As a new study shows the iPhone 4 to be a heavy bandwidth-consuming mobile device, European carriers are attempting to get Apple and other companies to invest in network improvements needed for data-heavy services.

Study finds heavy bandwidth use for iPhone 4, Android users

Arieso, a company that specializes in optimizing mobile networks, released a study on Wednesday that shows iPhone 4 owners use considerably more bandwidth on their handset than the more than two-year-old iPhone 3G.

The study found that iPhone 4 owners make 44 percent more data calls than those with an iPhone 3G. They also download 41 percent more data, and spend 67 percent more time connected to their wireless network.

The study used Apple's iPhone 3G as a baseline benchmark used to compare other, newer handsets in terms of bandwidth consumption. Arieso's tests found that devices running the Google Android mobile operating system used even more bandwidth than the iPhone 4.

In fact, Android handsets used more bandwidth than any other phones tested, including the BlackBerry Bold 9700. Android users scored highest in terms of data call volumes, time connected to the network, and data volume uploaded and downloaded.

Specifically, Samsung Galaxy users were found to upload 126 percent more data than the average iPhone 3G user. Those running the HTC Desire were also found to use 41 percent more data than the iPhone 3G.

Arieso's study also found that voice calls per subscriber are roughly flat, regardless of what device they own. The company asserted that the findings suggest customers are using their devices first and foremost for data consumption, not phone calls.

The popularity of the iPhone and the large amounts of data its users consume have cased problems for AT&T's network in the U.S. The strains placed on the carrier have cased dropped calls and other issues that contributed to Consumer Reports readers ranking AT&T the worst carrier in a survey revealed this week.

In 2009, the data consumption of the iPhone and its effect on the AT&T network was profiled in The New York Times. That article famously referred to the iPhone as the "Hummer of cellphones," referring to the gas-guzzling vehicle.

Carriers want Apple to pay for network improvements

European wireless operators, including France Telecom SA, Telecom Italia Spa and Vodafone Group Plc, are promoting a new deal that would require content providers like Apple to pay fees linked to bandwidth usage.

According to Bloomberg, Stephane Richard, CEO of France Telecom, believes that companies like Apple, Google and Facebook are "flooding networks," and those companies have "no incentive" to help carriers cut costs. Richard and others believe that a system should be put in place to charge content providers based on usage.

Wireless executives in Europe believe it is unfair that companies like search giant Google, or Apple and its iTunes store, can serve data over their networks for free.

The overseas argument is similar to the "Net neutrality" debate that continues to wage in the U.S., where carriers like Verizon and AT&T, along with Google, have argued that mobile networks are fundamentally different from broadband, and should be free of any federal regulation. American carriers have also taken steps to cap data plans, as AT&T no longer offers unlimited plans to new customers.

The report also classified Apple as a "frenemy" to wireless carriers, as the iPhone maker is believed to be interested in an embedded SIM in its future handsets, allowing customers to choose between competing carriers and activate their device right from the Apple Store. However, it is rumored that Apple abandoned those plans after European carriers threatened to stop offering subsidies for the iPhone.