Peak-period mobile bandwidth consumption will surge five-fold over the next three years, according to a forecast from ACG Research sponsored by Ciena and intended to assist network operators as they address bottlenecks and plan capital expenditures.

“Service provider backhaul networks are plagued with growing bottlenecks due to increasing device penetration and an abundance of new entertainment services and applications,” Ciena and ACG highlight in a press release.

Forecasting bandwidth demand and comparing it with service providers’ current backhaul capacity, researchers predict that typical macro cell capacity requirements will increase from today’s 260 Mbps to 1.5 Gbps within five years. “This equates to 1,000 users streaming a movie or live sports event at 1.5 Mbps on their smartphones simultaneously,” Ciena and ACG point out.

Network operators will need to take advantage of the latest network platforms and supporting technologies to keep pace with the forecast increase in bandwidth consumption, as well as “varying – and often unpredictable – traffic patterns,” Ciena and ACG say.

“An optimized, agile mobile backhaul solution supporting 10 Gbps to the macro cell tower will be essential to alleviate this projected bandwidth and ensure the expected quality of experience,” they add.

Peak Mobile Bandwidth Forecast
Key takeaways from the ACG report include:

  • Average bandwidth consumption per mobile user is expected to increase at a 52 percent CAGR through 2018. Smartphone penetration will rise from 55 percent to 67 percent, and the resulting usage of over-the-top (OTT) entertainment applications on smartphones will account for 59 percent of this; largely due to video – with high-bandwidth requirements, long session times and continuous streaming;
  • Mobile peak usage times, those typically occurring between 9-10 pm, will increase by 71 percent, from seven minutes today to 12 minutes in 2018. Consumption will also be boosted by new initiatives as OTT providers sponsor data packages (such as those for streaming music). In addition, new 3G and 4G enabled tablets will contribute to the surge in traffic growth, increasing by 20 percent;
  • The study indicates that supporting backhaul capacity requirements will exceed 1 Gbps by 2018, and this will be further intensified by the latest wireless standards such as LTE-Advanced and the introduction of more small cells, which are expected to deliver faster wireless services with broader coverage to users. Service providers need to take steps to deploy a mobile backhaul solution that supports 10 Gbps to meet this projected bandwidth and ensure quality of experience.

“Today’s users no longer rank mobile services by price alone. Now more than ever, the quality of experience for the latest OTT applications is paramount and a key driver of customer loyalty,” ACG Principal Analyst Michael Kennedy was quoted as saying.

“In three short years, these networks must offer broader coverage and handle more people using more applications on more devices at the same time. As a result, the backhaul infrastructure must transform to enable a more dynamic experience.”

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