Sustained rapid growth of mobile Internet-enabled devices bringing in video/multimedia applications and services will drive exponential growth in worldwide mobile data traffic. Such traffic will reach 6.3 exabytes per month, representing an annual run rate of 75 exabytes (an exabyte is equivalent to one billion gigabytes), a 26-fold increase in worldwide mobile data traffic between 2010 and 2015 according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast. Cisco is predicting a 92% compound annual growth rate for mobile data traffic over the period.

Mobile data traffic increased 159% globally from 2009 through 2010, reaching 237 petabytes per month, the equivalent of 60 million DVDs, according to Cisco. Global mobile data traffic grew 4.2 times as fast as fixed broadband data traffic. Mobile data traffic alone in 201 was 3x the size of all year 2000 global Internet (wireless and fixed) traffic.

Cisco forecasts that more than 5.6 billion personal devices will be connected to mobile networks along with 1.5 billion machine-to-machine nodes by 2015, with mobile video accounting for 66% of total mobile data traffic by that time. That would be a 35-fold increase from 2010 to 2015, the highest growth rate of any mobile data application tracked in the VNI Forecast. With a forecast 205-fold increase in mobile data traffic, tablet devices like the Apple iPad will exhibit the highest growth rate of any device category tracked. Other interesting study findings include:

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  • The Cisco study estimates that by 2015, there will be a mobile connected device for nearly every member of the world’s population (7.2 billion people per United Nations’ population estimate) and more than 7.1 billion mobile connections to handsets, other devices and machine-to-machine nodes (excluding Wi-Fi connections, per Cisco Visual Networking Index methodology).
  • Today, the average mobile connection generates 65 megabytes of traffic per month, equivalent to about 15 MP3 music files. By 2015, the average mobile connection is anticipated to generate more than 17 times that amount, to a total of 1,118 megabytes of traffic per month, equivalent to about 260 MP3 music files.
  • Smart phones, laptops, and other portable devices will drive more than 87 percent of global mobile traffic by 2015.
  • Mobile network-connected tablets will generate more traffic in 2015 (248 petabytes per month) than the entire global mobile network in 2010 (237 petabytes per month). The same will be true of machine-to-machine (M2M) traffic, which will reach 295 petabytes per month in 2015.
  • Mobile data traffic will grow the fastest in the Middle East and Africa with a CAGR of 101%, according to Cisco’s updated VNI Forecast. Western Europe mobile data traffic will increase at a 91% CAGR, North America’s CAGR will come in at 83% and Japan’s at 70%.

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