Although the data sent and received for each Siri event is relatively small, when all the requests for information and the resulting downloads are taken into account, voice has the capability to dramatically boost data consumption, Flanagan argued.
"In the aggregate, the effect could begin to be dramatic," he said. "It's like if you're staring at an avalanche bearing down on you. Any one of those snowflakes doesn't weigh very much -- and doesn't pose any danger -- but in the aggregate they can bury you."
Arieso's study also noted the increased appetite of so-called "extreme users," who, Flanagan said, consume much more than their fair share of data.
"One percent of users consumed upwards of half of all the data," Flanagan said, referring to the unidentified European carrier whose traffic it analyzed. "That's not specific to the market we looked at, but is a worldwide problem. Extreme users are becoming even more extreme."
That may seem like doom and gloom for carriers, but Flanagan argued that it was even more an opportunity for data providers -- provided they reacted intelligently.
"There are ways for network operators to address the consumption increase," Flanagan said, "such as the insertion of small cells to surgically respond to very localized demands, like very small base stations in homes."
Those devices shunt cellular data within a very small area to the Internet, bypassing the usual cellular towers.
"There is going to be consequences of consumption for the carrier, but I look at it as spending money to make money," Flanagan said. "In the end, I think the benefit will outweigh the costs to them."
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