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When AT&T's wireless service buckles and chokes, defenders say that Big Phone's infrastructure is being overloaded by iPhone users — but a new study shows that Jobsian handheld owners' data hunger is handily eclipsed by that of users of Verizon data plans.

Average monthly data dining for Verizon smartphones is 421MB, versus only 338MB for iPhones, according to a study being conducted by the phone-bill watchers at Validas of Houston, Texas.

"The key detail in this study that drives the average," said Validas EVP for analytics Ed Finegold, "is that, by percentage, nearly twice as many Verizon Wireless smartphone users are consuming 500 megabytes to 1 gigabyte per month compared to AT&T iPhone users."

Finegold cautions, however, that: "Averages can be misleading because when you plot data users in a distribution, you quickly see that there is no typical user — they are spread across a broad range."

For example, around 54 per cent of Verizon smartphones and 52 per cent of iPhones use less than 200MB per month, but 46 per cent of Verizon smartphones and 48 per cent of iPhones use use more than 200MB per month. But Verizon leads handily at the higher end, with over 4 per cent of Verizon users eating up more than 2GB per month — a hunger exhibited by a mere 1.6 per cent of iPhones.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, 3.4 per cent of Verizon users and 2.9 per cent of iPhone users don't consume any data whatsoever.

Finegold is right: the "typical user" is a mythical beast.

Validas's data was culled from the consumer wireless bills of over 20,000 smartphone users between January and May of this year. And when Validas says "smartphones", they exclude BlackBerries, which benefit from RIM's data compression — those phones "do not follow similar data consumption patterns to those of iPhones and other Smartphones," says Validas.

Despite less demand on its network, AT&T has faced numerous complaints about its 3G service — so much so that "Fake Steve Jobs" famously faked a fake Operation Chokehold protest last December over Big Phone's spotty service — a prank he quickly cancelled after nearly two thousand of his readers took him seriously.

Another black eye was dealt to AT&T when a "genius" in a New York Apple store told one user last September that he was lucky to see only 22 per cent of his calls being dropped when 30 per cent was the norm — and that user promptly told Gizmodo, which published the Jobsian minion's errant honesty.

The Reg gives credit when credit is due, however, and applauds Big Phone's upgrade efforts: early this year the company announced that it would pop for an additional $2bn to upgrade its network in 2010.

For more information on the Validas study, scheduled for full publication this September, check out their company blog. ®

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