Understanding usage and activity in cellular networks by investigating HTTP requests

The number of mobile devices is estimated to now exceed the world’s population, using more and more cloud services, and hence generating more and more traffic. Smartphones generate 95% of the total global handset traffic, and while approximately half of this traffic is sent to cellular networks, other handsets such as tablets are also using increasingly the cellular networks.

This paper provides a closer look at the traffic generated on cellular networks by exploring billions of HTTP requests sent by millions of users to a nation-wide cellular network during 41 days. We confirm that – as in many other contexts – 20% of the users are responsible for more than 80% of the requests and provide a deeper analysis of the cellular network usage. Furthermore, we characterise the activity of users on their mobile device and which cloud services they use. For instance, almost 30% of the users use the cellular network frequently, mainly using search services and social networks, but 20% of their requests are sent to advertisement and tracking systems.

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