Sprint and T-Mobile both offer unlimited data plans, which could challenge the two largest carriers, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, but preparing for the continuing video data onslaught will be expensive no matter how the data is divvied up. And the costs will be borne by users.
"Whether you have a data bucket each month or an unlimited data plan, once that data [need] is out there, it's difficult to rope that back in," Shaw said. "The social networking world is flipping the communications world around. Younger people are always online and don't even think about data" and the amount they use.
Juniper specializes in helping carriers move wireless data more efficiently to core wired networks for moving it further along the communications pathway. Juniper makes routers and supporting software toward that goal.
Juniper put together some numbers showing the crunch from video data compared to photos and smartphone texts. The numbers show dramatically how a 15-second video uses more than 16 times the megabytes used for a photo, while a 15-second video uses about 72,000 times as many megabytes of data as a single text.
Juniper said that an estimated 65 million Instagram users send out an average of 1.5 videos per month apiece (at 9.6 MB per video), which collectively totals 936 million MB a month.
By comparison, Instagram users share some 45 million photos per day, at about 600 KB per photo, for a collective total of 791 million MB a month, Juniper said.
"You can see that if people started sharing video as frequently as photos, the implications would be enormous," a Juniper spokesman said.
To put it another way, if 45 million Instagram videos were sent per day instead of that many photos, there would be 432 million MB of video data traffic per day, nearly half of the 936 million MB estimated by Juniper for an entire month currently.
In another comparison, 181 million U.S. smartphone users send an average of 600 texts a month, at 0.000133514 MB per text, which overall represents 14.5 million MB a month, or about 2% of the nearly 800 million MB a month used for Instagram photos, Juniper said.
Given the enormous impact Instagram and other video social networking apps are having on networks, perhaps it's a good thing that video chat isn't already more popular.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.