Mobile Data to SurgeWorldwide mobile data traffic will increase 18-fold over the next five years, reaching 10.8 exabytes (quintillion bytes) per month – an annual run rate of 130 exabytes – by 2016. That a constant annual growth rate of 78% over the five-year period, according to the latest forecast from the Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic report.

The ongoing surge in mobile Internet devices will be one driver of worldwide mobile data traffic growth, according to Cisco, as their number will exceed 2015 UN world population estimates of 7.3 billion. In addition, Cisco’s VNI forecasts that the rate of growth of mobile data traffic will outpace that for fixed data traffic by three times.

According to Cisco, the forecast of 130 exabytes of mobile data traffic is the equivalent of 33 billion DVDs, 4.3 quadrillion MP3 audio files or 813 quadrillion SMS text messages.

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Cisco expects that the amount of additional mobile Internet data traffic between 2015 and 2016 alone will be approximately three times that of forecast total mobile Internet traffic in 2012. The forces driving this trend include:

  • More Streamed Content: With the consumer expectations increasingly requiring on-demand or streamed content versus simply downloaded content, mobile cloud traffic will increase, growing 28-fold from 2011 to 2016, a CAGR of 95 percent.
  • More Mobile Connections: There will be more than 10 billion mobile Internet-connected devices in 2016, including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules — exceeding the world’s projected population at that time of 7.3 billion.(One M2M application is the use of wireless networks to update digital billboards. This allows advertisers to display different messages based on time of day or day-of-week and allows quick global changes for messages, such as pricing changes for gasoline).
  • Enhanced Computing of Devices: Mobile devices are becoming more powerful and thus able to consume and generate more data traffic. Tablets are a prime example of this trend generating traffic levels that will grow 62-fold from 2011 to 2016 — the highest growth rate of any device category tracked in the forecast. The amount of mobile data traffic generated by tablets in 2016 (1 exabyte per month) will be four times the total amount of monthly global mobile data traffic in 2010 (237 petabytes per month).
  • Faster Mobile Speeds: Mobile network connection speed is a key enabler for mobile data traffic growth. More speed means more consumption, and Cisco projects mobile speeds (including 2G, 3G and 4G networks) to increase nine-fold from 2011 to 2016.
  • More Mobile Video: Mobile users want the best experiences they can have and that generally means mobile video, which will comprise 71 percent of all mobile data traffic by 2016.

Seventy-one percent of all smartphones and tablets (some 1.6 billion) could be able to connect to an IPv6 mobile network by 2016, while 39% of all mobile devices (more than 4 billion) could have IPv6 capability.

Looking at mobile Internet data traffic growth across regions, Cisco’s updated VNI forecast finds:

  • Middle East and Africa will have the highest regional mobile data traffic growth rate with a CAGR of 104%, or 36-fold growth.
  • Asia-Pacific will have an 84 percent CAGR, or 21-fold growth.
  • Central and Eastern Europe will have an 83 percent CAGR, or 21-fold growth.
  • Latin America will have a 79 percent CAGR, or 18-fold growth.
  • North America will have a 75 percent CAGR, or 17-fold growth.
  • Western Europe will have a 68 percent CAGR, or 14-fold growth.

Examining the impact of mobile devices and connections, Cisco finds that:

  • There will be more than 8 billion handheld or personal mobile-ready devices and nearly 2 billion machine-to-machine connections, such as GPS systems in cars, asset tracking systems in shipping and manufacturing sectors and medical applications for making patient records more readily available.
  • Smartphones, laptops and other portable devices will drive about 90 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2016.
  • M2M traffic will represent 5 percent of 2016 global mobile data traffic

Telecom service providers will need to continue finding more and better ways of offloading surging mobile network traffic to fixed networks over the next five years.

  • To address the rise in demand for the mobile Internet, service providers are increasingly looking to offload traffic to fixed/Wi-Fi networks.
  • In 2011, 11 percent, or 72 petabytes, per month of total mobile data traffic was offloaded. By 2016, 22 percent, or 3.1 exabytes, per month of total mobile data traffic will be offloaded.
  • Without offloading, the 2011-2016 global mobile data traffic CAGR would be 84 percent instead of 78 percent.
  • Should all aspects of mobility be taken into consideration, such as cellular traffic, traffic offloaded from cellular networks and fixed/Wi-Fi traffic generated from portable devices, the total amount of mobility traffic would be more than four times the Cisco Mobile VNI forecast’s 2016 cellular traffic level.
    • In 2011, the sum of cellular traffic; cellular offload traffic; and fixed/Wi-Fi traffic from portable devices totaled 11.5 exabytes per month:
      • Cellular is 5.2 percent or 597 petabytes per month
      • Cellular Offload is 0.6 percent or 72 petabytes per month
      • Fixed/Wi-Fi is 94.2 percent or 10.9 exabytes per month
    • In 2011, fixed/Wi-Fi traffic was more than 18 times greater than cellular traffic.
    • In 2015, the sum of cellular traffic; cellular offload traffic; and fixed/Wi-Fi traffic from portable devices totaled 44.1 exabytes per month:
      • Cellular is 16 percent or 6.9 exabytes per month
      • Cellular offload is four percent or 2.0 exabytes per month
      • Fixed/Wi-Fi is 80 percent or 35.2 exabytes per month

In 2015, Fixed/Wi-Fi traffic will be more than five times greater than cellular traffic.

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