smartphonesSeven of every 10 people living on the planet – some 5.5 billion – will make use of mobile devices by 2020, according to Cisco’s 10th annual Visual Networking Index (VNI), which includes forecasts of global mobile data growth from 2015-2020.

The worldwide number of mobile device users has quintupled since 2000, Cisco points out. A number of factors have come together and will add momentum to the trend and fuel growth in the number of mobile device users at a rate twice that of population growth, Cisco points out: device adoption, increased mobile coverage and demand for mobile content.

Furthermore, Cisco cites the surge in mobile device users, smart devices, mobile video and 4G networks for a prediction that mobile data traffic will increase eight-fold over the next five years.

Mobile Data Growth
Drilling down, Cisco expects smart mobile devices (those with advanced computing/ multimedia capabilities and minimum 3G connectivity) will generate a whopping 98% of global mobile data traffic and account for 72% of total mobile devices and connections by 2020, up from 36% in 2015.

Smartphones will continue to be the single largest mobile device market segment, as well as the largest source of mobile data growth, both in terms of number of users and mobile data traffic. Smartphones will account for 81% of mobile data traffic worldwide by 2020, up from 76% last year, Cisco expects.

mobile data growth
Source: Cisco

Highlighting just how rapidly the number of mobile users is growing worldwide, Cisco anticipates that more people will have mobile phones (including hybrids such as phablets) than electricity by 2020: 5.4 billion as compared to 5.3 billion.

Mobile video will post the highest growth rates among service applications, fueled by consumer and business demand and the roll-out of 4G broadband networks and devices. Use of 4G connected devices will surpass that of 2G by 2018 and 3G by 2020, according to Cisco.

In addition, Cisco predicts 4G connectivity and usage will grow to account for more than 70% of global mobile data traffic, while 4G connections will generate nearly six times more monthly traffic than 2G and 3G by 2020.

“With the ever-increasing billions of people and things that are being connected, mobility is the predominant medium that’s enabling today’s global digitization transformation,” Cisco’s VP of service provider marketing Doug Webster was quoted in the press release.

“Future mobile innovations in cellular, such as 5G, and Wi-Fi solutions will be needed to further address new scale requirements, security concerns, and user demands. IoT advancements will continue to fuel tangible benefits for people, businesses, and societies.”

mobile data traffic growth
Source: Cisco

According to Cisco’s 10th VNI by 2020:

Annual global mobile data traffic will reach 366.8 exabytes—up from 44.2 exabytes in 2015. That’s equivalent to:

  • 120X more than all global mobile traffic generated in 2010.
  • 81 trillion images (e.g., MMS or Instagram)—28 daily images per person on earth for a year.
  • 7 trillion video clips (e.g., YouTube)—more than 2.5 daily video clips per person on earth for a year.

In addition:

  • From 2015 to 2020, global mobile data growth will outpace global fixed IP traffic by 2X.
  • In 2015, 51 percent of total mobile data traffic was offloaded; by 2020, 55 percent of total mobile data traffic will be offloaded.
  • By 2020, over 75 percent of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video.

Smarter and Faster
Mobile devices will continue to get ¨smarter¨ alongside a surge in the number of IoT/M2M devices and wearable connected devices, Cisco highlights. That will necessitate significantly higher bandwidth able to handle increasing volumes of data.

According to Cisco:

Average global mobile network speeds will increase 3.2 fold from 2015 (2.0 Mbps) to 2020 (6.5 Mbps). Global 4G adoption is the primary catalyst for mobile speed improvements. By 2020:

  • 4G connections will account for 40.5 percent of all mobile connections–up from 13.7 percent in 2015.
  • 3G connections will account for 38.7 percent of all mobile connections—up from 33.7 percent in 2015.
  • 2G connections will account for 13.5 percent all mobile connections—down from 52.3 percent in 2015.
  • 4G traffic will grow 13-fold from 2015 to 2020.
  • By 2020, 4G connections will account for 72 percent of total mobile data traffic—up from 47 percent of total mobile data traffic in 2015.

Image courtesy of flickr user Jon Fingas.

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