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Global Mobile Data Traffic to Increase 26x Between 2010-2015

The global data traffic over mobile devices will increase by 26 times between 2010-2015. Data traffic growth in 2011 is expected to be 131% while it will slow to nearly 64% by 2015. This growth, rather data explosion, seems in-line with the number of connected mobile devices these days. In addition, smart services such as smart grids, smart city implementations, and cloud-based services will be a major driver for this increase. Another driver is that smartphones and mobile devices such as tablets are increasingly overlapping with laptops/PCs and other computing devices while mobile network bandwidth is also increasingly in the form of 4G .  Thus, collectively, all these factors will drive this growth. However, with so much data generated annually, would mobile networks be able to handle this data influx? also, can there be adequate redundancies established in to the network to ensure network uptime?

Global Mobile Data Traffic, 2010 to 2015

Overall mobile data traffic is expected to grow to 6.3 exabytes per month by 2015, a 26-fold increase over 2010. Mobile data traffic will grow at a CAGR of 92 percent from 2010 to 2015. Annual growth rates will taper over the forecast period from 131 percent in 2011 to 64 percent in 2015 (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Cisco Forecasts 6.3 Exabytes per Month of Mobile Data Traffic by 2015

Western Europe and Asia Pacific will account for over half of global mobile traffic by 2015, as shown in Figure 2. Middle East and Africa will experience the highest CAGR of 129 percent, increasing 63-fold over the forecast period. The emerging market regions (Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Middle East and Africa) will have the highest growth and will represent an increasing share of total mobile data traffic, from 12 percent at the end of 2010 to 20 percent by 2015.

Figure 2. Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast by Region

Trend 1: Device Diversification

Figure 3 shows the devices responsible for mobile data traffic growth. Laptops and netbooks will continue to generate a disproportionate amount of traffic, but new device categories such as M2M and tablets will begin to account for a significant portion of the traffic by 2015.

Figure 3. Laptops and Smartphones Lead Traffic Growth

The introduction of laptops, tablets, and high-end handsets onto mobile networks is a major generator of traffic, because these devices offer the consumer content and applications not supported by the previous generation of mobile devices. As shown in Figure 4, a single laptop can generate as much traffic as 515 basic-feature phones, and a smartphone creates as much traffic as 24 basic-feature phones.

Figure 4. High-End Devices Can Multiply Traffic

Trend 2: Growth in Average Traffic per Device

Average traffic per device is expected to increase rapidly during the forecast period, as shown in Table 4.

Table 4. Summary of Per Device Usage Growth

Device Type 2009 2010 2015
Nonsmartphone 1.5 3.3 54
E-reader 5 11 245
Smartphone 35 79 1,272
Portable gaming console Not available 250 879
Tablet 28 405 2,311
Laptop and netbook 1,145 1,708 6,522
M2M module 3 35 166

Source: Cisco VNI Mobile, 2011

The growth in usage per device outpaces the growth in the number of devices. As shown in Table 5, the growth rate of new-device mobile data traffic is 2 to 5 times greater than the growth rate of users.

Table 5. Comparison of Global Device Unit Growth and Global Mobile Data Traffic Growth

Device Type Growth in Users, 2010-2015 CAGR Growth in Mobile Data Traffic, 2010-2015 CAGR
Smartphone 24% 116%
Portable gaming console 79% 130%
Tablet 105% 190%
Laptop and netbook 42% 85%
M2M module 53% 109%

Source: Cisco VNI Mobile, 2011

The following are a few of the main promoters of growth in average usage:

• As mobile network connection speeds increase, the average bit rate of content accessed through the mobile network will increase. High-definition video will be more prevalent, and the proportion of streamed content as compared to side-loaded content is also expected to increase with average mobile network connection speed.

• As the battery life of mobile devices improves, mobile minutes of use will increase. The amount of long-form video viewed on mobile devices will grow as battery life and processing power advances.

• As mobile network capacity improves, operators are more likely to offer mobile broadband packages comparable in price and speed to those of fixed broadband, thereby encouraging mobile broadband substitution. The usage profile of substitution users is substantially higher than average.

• The shift towards unicast from broadcast video will affect mobile networks as much as it will affect fixed networks. Internet radio and Internet video are unicast, meaning that there is one data stream per user, unlike broadcast, where one stream serves many users. The shift from broadcast to unicast means that traffic can increase dramatically even while the total amount of time spent watching video remains relatively constant.

Mobile devices increase an individual’s contact time with the network, and it is likely that in the early stages of mobile Internet use, this increased contact time will lead to an increase in overall minutes of use per user. However, not all of the increase in mobile data traffic can be attributed to traffic migration to the mobile network from the fixed network. Many uniquely mobile applications have already emerged, such as location-based applications and services.

Trend 3: Mobile Video

Because mobile video content has much higher bit rates than other mobile content types, mobile video will generate much of the mobile traffic growth through 2015. Of the 6.3 exabytes per month crossing the mobile network by 2015, 4.2 exabytes will be due to video (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Mobile Video Will Generate 66 Percent of Mobile Data Traffic by 2015

Note that last year’s forecast estimated that 66 percent of mobile network traffic would be video traffic by 2014. The mobile video percentage estimated for 2015 is not higher than 66 percent because of the inclusion of M2M traffic in this year’s forecast.

Trend 4: Mobile Internet Substitution

In many countries in Europe and elsewhere, mobile operators are offering mobile broadband services at prices and speeds comparable to those of fixed broadband. Although there are often data caps on mobile broadband services that are lower than those of fixed broadband, some consumers are opting to forego their fixed lines in favor of mobile services.

Even where laptop-based mobile broadband services remain expensive, the number of handset-based mobile Internet users may exceed the number of fixed mobile Internet users in regions with low penetration of fixed telecommunications services.

In total, the number of mobile-only Internet users will grow 25-fold between 2010 and 2015, reaching 788 million mobile-only Internet users. Asia Pacific will account for over half of all mobile-only Internet users. Table 6 shows are Cisco’s estimates for the number of mobile-only Internet users through 2015.

Table 6. Number of Mobile-Only Internet Users

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Global 13,976,859 31,860,295 78,855,662 188,375,368 487,426,725 788,324,804
Asia Pacific 2,448,932 6,768,196 20,543,294 67,012,433 240,350,642 420,277,951
Latin America 1,329,853 4,040,217 12,720,259 26,665,349 49,199,321 71,548,055
North America 2,615,787 4,218,310 6,550,322 14,257,565 38,783,886 55,646,710
Western Europe 5,237,113 10,348,319 21,163,143 33,524,429 58,670,609 83,364,841
Japan 441,060 1,021,441 3,322,664 10,780,236 21,462,108 31,876,998
Central and Eastern Europe 1,156,893 3,140,746 8,252,679 20,303,462 38,480,441 58,717,045
Middle East and Africa 747,221 2,323,065 6,303,302 15,831,895 40,479,719 66,893,204

Source: Cisco VNI Mobile, 2011

For further details about the market in 2010 and expected transformation till 2015, please visit the source.

Source: Cisco

 

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