Even as more cellular data traffic is being offloaded onto Wi-Fi networks and femtocells, consumers around the world are using mobile data more than ever, according to a new report from Cisco Systems.
Cisco's latest Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast report notes that globally, 46 percent of total mobile data traffic was offloaded onto fixed networks through Wi-Fi or femtocells in 2014. In the U.S. that figure is about 66 percent, according to GigaOM.
In 2014, 2.2 exabytes of mobile data traffic were offloaded globally onto fixed networks each month--and without offloading, mobile data traffic would have grown 84 percent rather than 69 percent in 2014. Additionally, Cisco found that by 2019, 54 percent of total global mobile data traffic will be offloaded, up from the 52 percent in 2018 that it predicted last year.
Yet that offloading trend is not stopping global mobile data traffic growth, according to Cisco. The firm said mobile data traffic will reach an annual run rate of 292 exabytes by 2019, up from 30 exabytes in 2014. An exabyte is equal to a billion gigabytes.
Overall, Cisco thinks that mobile data traffic will grow 10-fold from 2014 to 2019, down from an 11-fold growth rate the company predicted last year for the 2013-2018 timeframe. Globally, in 2014, consumers around the world burned through 2.5 exabytes per month, a figure that Cisco expects to jump to 24.3 exabytes per month in 2019.
In 2014, consumers in North America used on average 1.89 GB of mobile data per month in 2014, a figure that Cisco thinks will surge ahead to a little more than 11 GB on average in 2019.
Western Europeans used on average 916 MB of data per month in 2014, which Cisco expects to jump to 5.8 GB on average per month in 2019. Consumers in Central and Eastern Europe used just 627 MB on average per month in 2014 but that figure is expected to boom to 8.3 GB on average in 2019. Likewise, consumers in Latin America and the Middle East, who are now using less than 500 MB per month on average, will see their average usage spike to between 3.95 and 3.75 GB per month, respectively.
Meanwhile, consumers in the Asia-Pacific region will see their average usage jump from 431 MB per month in 2014 to 3.18 GB in 2019.
What is going to be fueling all of that growth? Several factors, according to Cisco. For one, there will simply be more mobile users; Cisco thinks that by 2019, there will be 5.2 billion mobile users, up from 4.3 billion in 2014. There will also be more mobile connections, thanks to the Internet of Things. By 2019, Cisco predicts there will be around 11.5 billion mobile-ready devices/connections, including 8.3 billion personal mobile devices and 3.2 billion M2M connections (up from 7.4 billion total mobile-ready devices and M2M connections in 2014).
Additionally, as LTE networks continue to proliferate and replace 2G and 3G networks, average global mobile network speeds will increase 2.4-fold from 2014 (1.7 Mbps) to 2019 (4 Mbps). Cisco also thinks that by 2019, mobile video will represent 72 percent of global mobile data traffic (up from 55 percent in 2014).
In terms of LTE, Cisco thinks that 26 percent of all global devices and connections will be LTE-capable by 2019. Cisco thinks the number LTE connections globally will grow 18-fold, from 459 million in 2019 to 3 billion by 2019. According to Cisco, in 2014, LTE connections accounted for 40 percent of total mobile data traffic but by 2019, LTE connections are expected to make up for 68 percent of total mobile data traffic.
In 2014, the average global LTE connection generated 2.2 GB of mobile data traffic per month. Cisco thinks that by 2019, the average LTE connection will generate 5.5 GB of mobile data traffic per month, 5.3x higher than the 1.04 GB per month for the average non-LTE connection.
Cisco also thinks that wearables will play a bigger role in mobile data traffic generation. The firm predicts that the number of wearable devices globally will grow five-fold, reaching 578 million by 2019, up from 109 million in 2014, with the majority of devices expected in in North America and the Asia-Pacific region. Traffic from wearables is expected to jump 18-fold between 2014 and 2019, though most of it will be channeled through smartphones.
Cisco's annual report is widely cited every year by carriers and vendors alike as a key benchmark for measuring and predicting data traffic. It is also used to justify calls for network investment, traffic management technologies and more spectrum, all of which could eventually benefit networking firms like Cisco.
- see this Cisco release
- see this Cisco white paper
- see this GigaOM article
- see this Re/code article
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