Video, memes and music driving 4G data usage, says EE

EE reports record mobile data usage in 2014, with sporting events and concerts driving major spikes in demand

The Ice Bucket Challenge, Dolly Parton at Glastonbury and Australian football player Tim Cahill’s goal against the Netherlands at the World Cup all pushed demand for 4G data services to record levels, according to mobile network operator (MNO) EE.

During the development of 4G networks, technical experts made much of the potential of 4G to enable seamless usage of high-bandwidth applications and their predictions now appear to be borne out.

EE reported that six times more 4G data was uploaded and downloaded by customers in 2014 than 2013, and it was largely driven by photo sharing and video streaming, which caused a number of significant spikes in traffic on its network during the year.

On 18 June, minutes after Cahill scored against the Dutch in Brazil, EE registered its busiest moment of 2014 as customers went online to watch replays and access social media while still at work.

Days later, the 4G network provided for the Glastonbury Festival saw 2.5TB of data downloaded, the equivalent of 650,000 Dolly Parton songs or 4.8 Dolly Parton songs for each ticket holder.

EE also saw sustained increases in uplink network traffic over the summer when subscribers started uploading footage of themselves dumping buckets of iced water over their heads for charity.

More on 4G

Towards the back end of the year, data use spiked again during the NFL game between the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins, held at Wembley Stadium, around Black Friday, when the network was 25% busier than usual, and in the dying seconds of 2014 as people around the country prepared to ring in the new year.

The operator, which is currently locked in sales talks with BT, doubled the capacity of its 4G network last year and added 5.7 million 4G customers during 2014, making it the largest network by subscribers in Europe.

It also launched 4G coverage in 350 towns and cities – 200 of them in the last three months of the year – meaning it now covers 510 towns and cities with populations of more than 10,000.

EE claimed it can now touch 80% of the population and is on target to reach 98% by the end of 2015.

Read more on Mobile networks