Why Does the iPad Use So Much Bandwidth?

Written by erik arvidson
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The iPad tablet computer consumes a large amount of network bandwidth because many iPad owners enjoy watching streamed video from online video services, such as Netflix. With its 9.7-inch screen that can display videos in a resolution of 1024-by-768 pixels, the iPad is a popular device for watching movies and television. Streaming a movie from an online video service on an iPad can consume several gigabytes of data in just a couple of hours.

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Background

Both the first-generation iPad and the iPad 2 come in two models: one which can access the Internet only through an 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connection, and another which can access the Internet either through Wi-Fi or using the 3G cellular data network from either Verizon Wireless or AT&T. In general, most people who use a Wi-Fi connection to access the Internet wirelessly from their iPad have no limit on the amount of data they can use.

Wi-Fi Consumption

According to a June 2011 study by Meraki, Inc., a company that provides cloud services, iPads consume about four times as much Wi-Fi data on a monthly basis than the average iPhone, Android or iPod device. The company said it derived the figures by surveying 100,000 devices using public Wi-Fi networks.

Comparison

Jack Gold, a technology analyst, told "Computerworld" in March 2010 that most iPad users would prefer to use a Wi-Fi connection, rather than a 3G mobile data network, to run the bandwidth-intensive applications on the iPad. This is because 3G networks typically have restrictions on the amount of data a subscriber can use per month, and they face "latency issues" that are less prevalent when using a Wi-Fi connection. According to a June 2010 "PC World" article, in the first several months after the iPad went on sale, owners of the 3G iPad could watch a large number of Netflix movies and TV shows on their iPad. However, in June 2010, AT&T eliminated its unlimited monthly data plan and introduced tiered data plans, in part to limit the large amount of video content being consumed by iPad users, according to "PC World."

Netflix Streaming

In May 2011, an Internet traffic report by network management company Sandvine revealed that 22.2 per cent of all U.S. broadband traffic was related to people streaming Netflix movies, many of those to iPad devices. In an effort to allow subscribers to reduce their bandwidth usage (and not exceed monthly data limits), Netflix in June 2011 announced that it would allow customers to stream movies in three different quality levels. Good quality streams consume about 0.3 gigabytes of data per hour, while "better" quality would use about 0.7GB per hour, and "best" quality uses about 1GB per hour.

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