Cell Phone Study: People Don't Travel All That Much

Northeastern University secretly spied on the movements of 100,000 cell phone users as they traveled outside of the United States. The conclusion? Most people stay within 20 miles of their homes for more than half the year.

The scientists who conducted this study aren't saying where the study was completed, but did say that study compiled six months' worth of data from cell phone towers from a privately held company. The methodology is raising tons of privacy issues, as no one opted into this survey and they were monitored without their knowledge or consent. While the legal issues are sorted out, let's look at the data.

The Associated Press reports that, "The study found that nearly half of the people in the study pretty much keep to a circle little more than six miles wide and that 83% of the people tracked mostly stay within a 37-mile wide circle. Nearly 3% of the population regularly go beyond a 200-mile wide circle. Less than 1% of people travel often out of a 621-mile circle."

A "621-mile" circle seems an odd metric to me, but whatever. So, comparing these results to my own life, I'd have to say they aren't all that far off. I generally stick to an area that's within 3 miles from my home in any direction. I do travel 35 miles into NYC probably half a dozen times per month for one reason or another. I travel 300 miles to my parent's home about four or five times per year. I take about four 2,000+mile trips to the West Coast for work, and one or two 3,500+miles to Europe each year.

Calculating the exact percentages of how much time I spend where would take more time that it is worth, but I'll allow that I spend more than half of my time within 20 miles of my house.



June 5, 2008 at 4:53 AM

621 miles sounds awfully close to 1000 km :)(37 miles equals 60 km).

Other than that, it's an interesting study indeed. Most people do not travel much. However, what exactly did they find out after all? Even within 6 miles, you have a very large mobilitiy that requires you to be wireless.

  Suresh Kumar A

June 5, 2008 at 5:57 AM

I appreciate your valuable comment.You are considering just 6 miles. But if you consider less than or greater than 6 miles in some remote villages. You are not sure that you will have a great mobility in that area. It may have. But higher percentage don't have. We need to wait for some more years in order to become mobile coverage stable.