The Future of Mobile Data

Posted by Content Coordinator on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014


The Cisco® Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update is part of the comprehensive Cisco VNI Forecast, an ongoing initiative to track and forecast the impact of visual networking applications on global networks. This paper presents some of Cisco’s major global mobile data traffic projections and growth trends.

Executive Summary

Global mobile data traffic grew 81 percent in 2013. Global mobile data traffic reached 1.5 exabytes per month atthe end of 2013, up from 820 petabytes per month at the end of 2012.

Last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly 18 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. One exabyte of traffic traversed the global Internet in 2000, and in 2013 mobile networks carried nearly 18 exabytes of traffic.

Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2012. Mobile video traffic was 53 percent of traffic by the end of 2013.

Over half a billion (526 million) mobile devices and connections were added in 2013. Global mobile devices and connections in 2013 grew to 7 billion, up from 6.5 billion in 2012. Smartphones accounted for 77 percent of that growth, with 406 million net additions in 2013.

Globally, smart devices represented 21 percent of the total mobile devices and connections in 2013, they accounted for 88 percent of the mobile data traffic. In 2013, on an average, a smart device generated 29times more traffic than a non-smart device.

Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2013. Globally, the average mobile network downstream speed in2013 was 1,387 kilobits per second (Kbps), up from 526 Kbps in 2012.

In 2013, a fourth-generation (4G) connection generated 14.5 times more traffic on average than a non‑4Gconnection. Although 4G connections represent only 2.9 percent of mobile connections today, they already account for 30 percent of mobile data traffic.

The top 1 percent of mobile data subscribers generated 10 percent of mobile data traffic, down from 52percent at the beginning of 2010. According to a mobile data usage study conducted by Cisco, mobile data traffic has evened out over the last year and is now lower than the 1:20 ratio that has been true of fixed networks for several years.

Average smartphone usage grew 50 percent in 2013. The average amount of traffic per smartphone in 2013 was529MBper month, up from 353 MB per month in 2012.

Smartphones represented only 27 percent of total global handsets in use in 2013, but represented 95percent of total global handset traffic. In 2013, the typical smartphone generated 48 times more mobile datatraffic (529 MB per month) than the typical basic-feature cell phone (which generated only 11 MB per month ofmobile data traffic).

Globally, there were nearly 22 million wearable devices (a sub-segment of M2M category) in 2013 generating 1.7 petabytes of monthly traffic.

Globally, 45 percent of total mobile data traffic was offloaded onto the fixed network through Wi-Fi or femtocell in 2013. In 2013, 1.2 exabytes of mobile data traffic were offloaded onto the fixed network each month. Without offload, mobile data traffic would have grown 98 percent rather than 81 percent in 2013.

Per-user iOS mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) data usage marginally surpassed that of Android mobile devices data usage. By the end of 2013, average iOS consumption exceeded average Android consumption in North America and Western Europe.

In 2013, 18 percent of mobile devices were potentially IPv6-capable. This estimate is based on network connection speed and OS capability.

In 2013, the number of mobile-connected tablets increased 2.2-fold to 92 million, and each tablet generated 2.6 times more traffic than the average smartphone. In 2013, mobile data traffic per tablet was 1,374 MB per month, compared to 529MB per month per smartphone.

There were 149 million laptops on the mobile network in 2013, and each laptop generated 4.6 times moretraffic than the average smartphone. Mobile data traffic per laptop was 2.45 GB per month in 2013, up17percent from 2.1 GB per month in 2012.

Average nonsmartphone usage increased 39 percent to 10.8 MB per month in 2013, compared to 7.8 MB per month in2012. Basic handsets still make up the vast majority of handsets on the network (73 percent).

The Mobile Network Through 2018

Mobile data traffic will reach the following milestones within the next five years.

● Monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 15 exabytes by 2018.

● The number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population by 2014.

● The average mobile connection speed will surpass 2 Mbps by 2016.

● Due to increased usage on smartphones, smartphones will reach 66 percent of mobile data traffic by 2018.

● Monthly mobile tablet traffic will surpass 2.5 exabyte per month by 2018.

● Tablets will exceed 15 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2016.

● 4G traffic will be more than half of the total mobile traffic by 2018.

● There will be more traffic offloaded from cellular networks (on to Wi-Fi) than remain on cellular networks by2018.

Figure 2. Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast by Region

Download full version (PDF): Cisco Visual Networking Index

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