abi mobile data researchGlobal mobile data traffic will exceed 107 exabytes in 2017, 8-times more than that forecast for 2012, according to a new ABI Research forecast. This explosive rate of growth, which has prompted repeated warnings of a mobile data traffic “tsunami” threatening mobile operator networks, needs to be tempered, however, ABI says.

The numbers are huge, and mobile network operators, for regulatory reasons, “often try to portray them as yet another warning of the untamable data tsunami” they face. That needs, and can be balanced by taking a broader, long-term perspective, points out ABI senior research analyst Aapo Markkanen.

“It looks like 2015 will be the last year when the traffic volume will grow by more than 50% annually. And that will happen despite the fact that the monthly average per wireless subscriber, worldwide, will increase to almost 1.5 gigabytes by the end of our forecasting period.”

The level of online video consumption, and the percentage of that mobile data traffic that will be delivered via cellular networks will play a large part in determining the overall level of mobile data traffic crossing the Web, Markkanen notes. Hence, the changes made by individual content providers can have far-reaching effects on the strains put on ISPs’ network platforms.

As an example, ABI, in its Mobile Data Traffic Forecasts Research Service, highlights Netflix, which recently added “a simple function” to its iOS app that users can activate to limit their viewing to Wi-Fi only, thereby avoiding cellular overage charges. “Besides accidental video streams, app downloads and updates are another activity that can be easily steered onto fixed networks,” the market research company explains.

In addition, Google  has been making improvements to both its Android mobile OS and Google Play, which have a reputation for being “data hogs,” ABI notes. The improvements make it much easier for end-users to monitor and control their data consumption.

“Inadvertent data consumption has thus far been a surprisingly large source of traffic, but in the next couple of years we will see more and more of relatively quick fixes in the OS and the application levels. They will substantially ease this ‘needless’ burden on networks,” concluded ABI VP for core forecasting Jack Saunders.

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