Is Siri Eating The Internet?

Posted by · January 6, 2012 11:31 am

If you have an iPhone 4S, it might be a good idea to reconsider your current data plan, especially if Siri has suddenly become a big part of your life. According to a study from network metrics firm Arieso, the built-in virtual assistant has iPhone 4S users consuming twice as much data as a non-iPhone 4S user. In fact, the report estimates that an iPhone 4S user consumers five times the data as a Blackberry user.

Thanks to Siri, people now have convenient access to a continuous stream of data from their mobile networks by simply asking their phone questions. Be it the weather, directions to a nearby restaurant, or the score of the game, Siri makes it so simple to retrieve this information that it’s not surprising how easy it is for users to lose track of how much extra data they are using.

Because the iPhone is now available to customers of all major wireless carriers, this sudden increase in data usage has some analysts worried about a coming spectrum crisis that could ultimately lead to network disruption, including dropped calls and poor service.

Paul Gallant, an analyst at Guggenheim, had the following to say about the report:

This suggests that the spectrum crunch may arrive sooner than people expected. It puts more of a premium on Congress doing what it can to put more spectrum into the market.

Gallant was speaking of the potential auction of wireless spectrum by the government that could be authorized as soon as next month. Unfortunately, the auctions themselves probably would not take place for a couple years. Any such auction, however, depends on the passage of legislation—perhaps as an amendment to a long-term payroll tax cut bill—by a deeply divided Congress.

If such a bill did manage to pass, it could raise as much as $28 billion for a revenue-deficient federal government.

Although networks like Verizon and Sprint seem to be taking the iPhone 4S’s increased data demand in stride, AT&T’s failure to obtain additional spectrum leaves us to wonder if the company has years to wait for what is still a less-than-certain airwave auction. Given its reputation for poor network integrity in the past, AT&T may well begin to crumble under the pressure of Siri’s data addiction before that opportunity arrives.