Mobile network voice and data traffic will be 33x greater by the end of the next decade, reaching 127 exabytes by 2020, according to the UMTS Forum. Growth in “a typical Western European country,” will be even stronger, increasing 67x over the same period, from 186 terabytes to 12,540 terabytes a day, according to the 3G/4G industry association’s, “Mobile Traffic Forecasts 2010-2020” report.

Data will be the principal driver of the surge in mobile traffic, the Forum says, with mobile voice traffic showing “limited growth” during the next decade.

UMTS has highlighted four key trends to watch for:

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  1. Continuing growth in tablets, dongles, smartphones, M2M and other connected devices;
  2. Media rich social networking generating significant traffic and new consumption patterns;
  3. Video has grown to become the dominant source of data traffic via streaming and downloads while demand for TV content is also generating increasingly significant data traffic;
  4. Small cells and femtocells are becoming the solutions of choice to avoid network congestion.

“This new report reflects ever-increasing consumer demand for mobile broadband services”, noted UMTS Forum chairman Jean-Pierre Bienaimé. “These latest forecasts are of particular interest in the context of discussions about availability of sufficient spectrum to support the continuing growth in demand for mobile broadband services”.

Given these implications, UMTS intends to put its most recent study forward for consideration at the next World Radiocommunication Conferences, WRC-12 and WRC-15/16, where regulations governing the use of radio frequency spectrum are reviewed.

Uplink and downlink voice and data traffic transported on mobile networks using licensed spectrum is included in the UMTS study, as is traffic managed by femtocells. Wi-Fi offloading, RFID traffic and any other traffic carried over unlicensed radio frequency bands are not.

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