UK mobile network 3 has claimed that 97 percent of all the traffic on its network is data.

In a blog, 3's Phil Sheppard made the announcement and described the statistic as "amazing".

"It's even more amazing when you know that since June last year and September this year (just 14 months) we've seen a 427 percent increase in data usage on Three for smartphone customers. Downloading apps, streaming movies, getting around town with Google Maps, even checking in on Facebook – it all adds up, and you're doing it now more than ever."

Sheppard said that calls and texts are still important but the firm's 3G network "was made for the mobile internet".

"We've been growing it, and upgrading it, and perfecting it to make it the best it can be. "In a market flooded with tablets and smartphones, there can be no denying the importance of a reliable, powerful network like ours," he added.

However, the growth of data traffic may also be causing problems for the network, which launched in the UK in 2003, as earlier this year 3 warned it may run out of capacity as early as the end of 2012 unless the government auction of the 800MHz and 2.6GHz radio spectrums goes ahead.

"There is a huge financial incentive for rival operators to delay the auction. We are worried that the other three will attempt to squeeze us out of the market," said chief executive David Dyson said at the time.

Initially, Ofcom said the auction would take place at the beginning of 2012. However it has now revised its timescale and moved the auctions expected start date to mid-way through the year following the threat of legal action by O2, which claimed auction was illegal under EU law. O2 believes as itself and Vodafone already own some 900MHz spectrum, Ofcom will ensure a certain amount of new 800MHz spectrum goes to their rivals, but says the two spectrums aren't directly comparable and the move would give their rivals an advantage when all operators should start with a clean slate.

Providing there are no further delays to the auction, 4G services are likely to be rolled out across the UK in 2014.