Cisco: Mobile data traffic to increase 800% within 5 years

Smart devices, demand for mobile video, the continued growth of 4G networks and an ever-increasing number of wireless users will drive an 800 percent increase in mobile data traffic during the next five years, according to Cisco's latest forecast.

In its most recent annual Visual Networking Index, the telecom gear vendor predicted there will be 5.5 billion mobile users by 2010, representing 70 percent of the worldwide population. Smart mobile devices and connections -- which Cisco defines as those "with advanced computing/multimedia capabilities and a minimum of 3G connectivity" -- will account for 72 percent of all mobile devices by 2020, according to Cisco, up from 36 percent in 2015. And they are expected to drive 98 percent of mobile data traffic by that time.


Cisco predicts mobile data traffic will see a 53 percent compound annual growth rate through 2020.

In fact, the worldwide phone penetration rate is increasingly so quickly that 5.4 billion people will have handsets by 2020 -- more than will have electricity (5.3 billion), running water (3.5 billion) or cars (2.8 billion).

And Cisco predicts mobile video will have the highest growth rate of any application, and demand for increased resolution, more bandwidth and processing speed will drive adoption of 4G devices. More than 70 percent of all mobile data traffic will be routed over 4G networks by 2020, according to the company, by which time 4G connections will generate nearly six times more traffic per month than non-4G connections.

Cisco has skin in this game, obviously: The more mobile data consumption ramps up, the better its business prospects for selling networking equipment are. And the company came under scrutiny three years from Analysys Mason, which claimed Cisco's forecasts for mobile data traffic in North America and Western Europe were too high even after they had been revised downward. Cisco defended its forecast at the time, saying it "has consistently revised VNI predictions publicly to reflect new data and trends."

Regardless of how accurate Cisco's predictions prove to be, though, operators in the U.S. and other mature markets are already struggling to manage data traffic on their networks due largely to a sharp increase in mobile video usage. Those challenges will only increase over the next several years, forcing operators to develop innovative strategies and technologies to meet demand.

"With the ever-increasing billions of people and things that are being connected, mobility is the predominant medium that's enabling today's global digitization transformation," said Doug Webster, Cisco's vice president of service provider marketing, in a prepared statement. "Future mobile innovations in cellular, such as 5G, and Wi-Fi solutions will be needed to further address new scale requirements, security concerns, and user demands. IoT advancements will continue to fuel tangible benefits for people, businesses and societies."

For more:
- see this Cisco press release

Related articles:
Analysts question Cisco's mobile data traffic revisions
Cisco: N. American mobile users to each consume around 11 GB per month by 2019
Cisco: Wi-Fi, cellular data to make up 67% of all IP traffic in 2019

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