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By 2018 more than ten billion mobile devices with faster network speeds grow data traffic by more than 1000%. Video comprise 69% of the content.

Networking giant Cisco has released the 1014 edition of its annual ‘Visual Networking Index’. It is extremely comprehensive, with its own website containing many online resources to help analyse the data.

The report, subtitled ‘Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast for 2013 to 2018’, forecasts that worldwide mobile data traffic will increase by over 1000% over the next four years, reaching an annual run rate of 190 exabytes by 2018.

The projected increase in mobile traffic is partly due to continued strong growth in the number of mobile Internet connections, including machine-to-machine (M2M) connections, which will exceed 10 billion by 2018 and be 1.4 times greater than the world’s population (the UN estimates 7.6 billion people by 2018).

The report tells us just how much 190 exabytes is:

  • 42 trillion images (e.g., multimedia message service or Instagram)—15 daily images per person on earth for a year.
  • 4 trillion video clips (e.g., YouTube)—more than one daily video clip per person on earth for a year.

The incremental amount of traffic being added to the mobile Internet just between 2017 and 2018 is 5.1 exabytes per month, which is more than three times the estimated size of the entire mobile Internet in 2013 (1.5 exabytes per month).

Key global mobile data traffic drivers

From 2013 to 2018, Cisco anticipates that global mobile traffic growth will outpace global fixed traffic growth by a factor of three. The following trends are driving mobile data traffic growth:

  • More mobile users: By 2018, there will be 4.9 billion mobile users, up from 4.1 billion in 2013.
  • More mobile connections: By 2018, there will be more than 10 billion mobile-ready devices or connections—including eight billion personal mobile devices and two billion M2M connections, up from seven billion total mobile-ready devices and M2M connections in 2013.
  • Faster mobile speeds: Average global mobile network speeds will nearly double from 1.4 Mbps in 2013 to 2.5 Mbps by 2018.
  • More mobile video: By 2018, mobile video will represent 69% of global mobile data traffic, up from 53% in 2013.
  • Globally, 54% of mobile connections will be ‘smart’ connections by 2018, up from 21% in 2013. Smart devices and connections have advanced computing/multi-media capabilities and a minimum of 3G connectivity.
  • Smartphones, laptops, and tablets will drive about 94% of global mobile data traffic by 2018. M2M traffic will represent 5% of 2018 global mobile data traffic while basic handsets will account for 1% of global mobile data traffic by 2018. Other portables will account for just 0.1%.
  • Mobile cloud traffic will grow 12-fold from 2013 to 2018, a 64% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

Impact of M2M connections and wearable devices

M2M refers to applications that enable wireless and wired systems to communicate with similar devices to support global positioning satellite (GPS) navigation systems, asset tracking, utility meters, security and surveillance video. A new ‘wearable devices’ sub-segment has been added to the M2M connections category to help project the growth trajectory of the Internet of Everything (IoE).

Wearable devices include things that are worn by people such as smart watches, smart glasses, health and fitness trackers, wearable scanners with capability to connect and communicate to the network either directly via embedded cellular connectivity or through another device such as a smartphone via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

  • In 2013, M2M connections represented nearly five% of mobile-connected devices in use and generated more than one% of total mobile data traffic
  • By 2018, M2M connections will represent nearly 20% of mobile-connected devices in use and generate almost six% of total mobile data traffic.
  • In 2013, there were 21.7 million global wearable devices. By 2018, there will be 176.9 million global wearable devices or a 52% CAGR.

Impact of faster global mobile network connection speeds

Many global service providers are deploying 4G technologies to address consumer and business users’ strong demand for wireless services and content. In many emerging markets, service providers are creating new mobile infrastructures with 4G solutions.

In some mature markets, service providers are supplementing or replacing legacy 2G or 3G solutions with 4G technologies.

  • By 2018, 4G connections will support 15% of all connections, up from 2.9% in 2013.
  • By 2018, 4G connections will support 51%, or 8 exabytes per month, of total mobile data traffic, up from 30%, or 448 petabytes per month, in 2013.
  • 4G traffic will grow 18-fold from 2013 to 2018, a 78% CAGR.

Wi-Fi offload traffic surpasses cellular traffic

‘Offload’ refers to traffic from dual mode devices and supports cell and Wi-Fi connectivity, excluding laptops) over Wi-Fi and small cell networks.

Offloading occurs at the user or device level when one switches from a cell connection to Wi-Fi and small cell access.

  • More mobile data traffic will be offloaded onto Wi-Fi from mobile-connected devices (17.3 exabytes per month) than will remain on mobile networks by 2018 (15.9 exabytes per month).
  • By 2018, 52% of global mobile traffic will be offloaded onto Wi-Fi/small cell networks, up from 45% in 2013.

For more predictions and Australia data, read on ...

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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