According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast for 2013 to 2018, worldwide mobile data traffic will increase nearly 11-fold over the next four years and reach 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, such as personal devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) connections, which will exceed 10 billion by 2018 and be 1.4 times greater than the world’s population (United Nations estimates 7.6 billion people by 2018).
Key Regional Growth Projections
In terms of mobile data traffic growth rates over the forecast period, the Middle East and Africa region is projected to have the highest regional growth rate. Below is how each of the regions ranks in terms of growth rate by 2018:
- The Middle East and Africa will have a 70 percent CAGR and 14-fold growth;
- Central and Eastern Europe will have a 68 percent CAGR and 13-fold growth;
- Asia-Pacific will have a 67 percent CAGR and 13-fold growth;
- Latin America will have a 66 percent CAGR and 13-fold growth;
- North America will have a 50 percent CAGR and eight-fold growth; and
- Western Europe will have a 50 percent CAGR and seven-fold growth.
In terms of mobile data traffic generation, the Asia-Pacific region is projected to generate the most mobile data traffic. Below is how each of the regions ranks in terms of anticipated mobile data traffic generation by 2018:
- Asia-Pacific: 6.72 exabytes per month;
- North America: 2.95 exabytes per month;
- Western Europe: 1.9 exabytes per month;
- Central and Eastern Europe: 1.64 exabytes per month;
- The Middle East and Africa: 1.49 exabytes per month; and
- Latin America: 1.16 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/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 percent of global mobile data traffic, up from 53 percent in 2013.
Global Shift to Smarter Devices
- Globally, 54 percent of mobile connections will be ‘smart’ connections by 2018, up from 21 percent 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 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2018. M2M traffic will represent five percent of 2018 global mobile data traffic while basic handsets will account for 1 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2018. Other portables will account for 0.1 percent.
- Mobile cloud traffic will grow 12-fold from 2013 to 2018, a 64 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
Impact of Machine-to-Machine 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 percent of mobile-connected devices in use and generated more than one percent of total mobile data traffic
- By 2018, M2M connections will represent nearly 20 percent of mobile-connected devices in use and generate almost 6 percent 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 percent CAGR.
Impact of Faster Global Mobile Network Connection Speeds
The average mobile connection is expected to nearly double from 2013 to 2018. Mobile connection speeds are a key factor in supporting/accommodating mobile data traffic growth.
Source: Results from Cisco Global Internet Speed Test (GIST) (part of the Cisco VNI program) and other independent speed tests. The Cisco GIST application has more than one million global users. These projections include cellular connection speeds only (not Wi-Fi) and are based on extrapolations from historical mobile network connection speed data.
4G Mobile Adoption and Traffic Growth
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 percent of all connections, up from 2.9 percent in 2013.
- By 2018, 4G connections will support 51 percent, or 8 exabytes per month, of total mobile data traffic, up from 30 percent, or 448 petabytes per month, in 2013.
- 4G traffic will grow 18-fold from 2013 to 2018, a 78 percent 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. The Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast (2013-2018) mobile offload projections include traffic from public hotspots and residential Wi-Fi networks.
- 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 percent of global mobile traffic will be offloaded onto Wi-Fi/small cell networks, up from 45 percent in 2013.
Global Mobile Application Analysis: Video Remains on Top
Mobile video traffic will increase 14-fold from 2013 to 2018 and will have the highest growth rate of any mobile application category.
- By 2018, mobile video will be 69 percent of global mobile traffic, up from 53 percent in 2013.
- By 2018, web and other data applications will be 17 percent of global mobile traffic, down from 28 percent in 2013.
- By 2018, streaming audio will be 11 percent of global mobile traffic, down from 14 percent in 2013.
- By 2018, file sharing will be three percent of global mobile traffic, down from four percent in 2013.