February 6, 2013
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.
The Mobile Network in 2012
Global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012. Global mobile data traffic reached 885 petabytes per month at the end of 2012, up from 520 petabytes per month at the end of 2011.
Last year's mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. Global mobile data traffic in 2012 (885 petabytes per month) was nearly twelve times greater than the total global Internet traffic in 2000 (75 petabytes per month).
Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2012. Mobile video traffic was 51 percent of traffic by the end of 2012.
Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012. Globally, the average mobile network downstream speed in 2012 was 526 kilobits per second (kbps), up from 248 kbps in 2011. The average mobile network connection speed for smartphones in 2012 was 2,064 kbps, up from 1,211 kbps in 2011. The average mobile network connection speed for tablets in 2012 was 3,683 kbps, up from 2,030 kbps in 2011.
In 2012, a fourth-generation (4G) connection generated 19 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection. Although 4G connections represent only 0.9 percent of mobile connections today, they already account for 14 percent of mobile data traffic.
The top 1 percent of mobile data subscribers generate 16 percent of mobile data traffic, down from 52 percent 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 81 percent in 2012. The average amount of traffic per smartphone in 2012 was 342 MB per month, up from 189 MB per month in 2011.
Smartphones represented only 18 percent of total global handsets in use in 2012, but represented 92 percent of total global handset traffic. In 2012, the typical smartphone generated 50 times more mobile data traffic (342 MB per month) than the typical basic-feature cell phone (which generated only 6.8 MB per month of mobile data traffic).
Globally, 33 percent of total mobile data traffic was offloaded onto the fixed network through Wi-Fi or femtocell in 2012. In 2012, 429 petabytes of mobile data traffic were offloaded onto the fixed network each month. Without offload, mobile data traffic would have grown 96 percent rather than 70 percent in 2012.
Android is now higher than iPhone levels of data use. By the end of 2012, average Android consumption exceeded average iPhone consumption in the United States and Western Europe.
In 2012, 14 percent of mobile devices and connections were potentially IPv6-capable. This estimate is based on network connection speed and OS capability.
In 2012, the number of mobile-connected tablets increased 2.5-fold to 36 million, and each tablet generated 2.4 times more traffic than the average smartphone. In 2012, mobile data traffic per tablet was 820 MB per month, compared to 342 MB per month per smartphone.
There were 161 million laptops on the mobile network in 2012, and each laptop generated 7 times more traffic than the average smartphone. Mobile data traffic per laptop was 2.5 GB per month in 2012, up 11 percent from 2.3 GB per month in 2011.
Nonsmartphone usage increased 35 percent to 6.8 MB per month in 2012, compared to 5.0 MB per month in 2011. Basic handsets still make up the vast majority of handsets on the network (82 percent).
The Mobile Network Through 2017
Mobile data traffic will reach the following milestones within the next five years.
• Monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 10 exabytes in 2017.
• The number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world's population in 2013.
• The average mobile connection speed will surpass 1 Mbps in 2014.
• Due to increased usage on smartphones, handsets will exceed 50 percent of mobile data traffic in 2013.
• Monthly mobile tablet traffic will surpass 1 exabyte per month in 2017.
• Tablets will exceed 10 percent of global mobile data traffic in 2015.
Global mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold between 2012 and 2017. Mobile data traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 66 percent from 2012 to 2017, reaching 11.2 exabytes per month by 2017.
By the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2017 there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita. There will be over 10 billion mobile-connected devices in 2017, including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules-exceeding the world's population at that time (7.6 billion).
Mobile network connection speeds will increase 7-fold by 2017. The average mobile network connection speed (526 kbps in 2012) will exceed 3.9 megabits per second (Mbps) in 2017.
In 2017, 4G will be 10 percent of connections, but 45 percent of total traffic. In 2017, a 4G connection will generate 8 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection.
By 2017, 41 percent of all global mobile devices and connections could potentially be capable of connecting to an IPv6 mobile network. Over 4.2 billion devices and connections will be IPv6-capable in 2017.
Two-thirds of the world's mobile data traffic will be video by 2017. Mobile video will increase 16-fold between 2012 and 2017, accounting for over 66 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of the forecast period.
Mobile-connected tablets will generate more traffic in 2017 than the entire global mobile network in 2012. The amount of mobile data traffic generated by tablets in 2017 (1.3 exabytes per month) will be 1.5 times higher than the total amount of global mobile data traffic in 2012 (885 petabytes per month).
The average smartphone will generate 2.7 GB of traffic per month in 2017, an 8-fold increase over the 2012 average of 342 MB per month. Aggregate smartphone traffic in 2017 will be 19 times greater than it is today, with a CAGR of 81 percent.
By 2017, almost 21 exabytes of mobile data traffic will be offloaded to the fixed network by means of Wi-Fi devices and femtocells each month. Without Wi-Fi and femtocell offload, total mobile data traffic would grow at a CAGR of 74 percent between 2012 and 2017 (16-fold growth), instead of the projected CAGR of 66 percent (13-fold growth).
The Middle East and Africa will have the strongest mobile data traffic growth of any region at 77 percent CAGR. This region will be followed by Asia Pacific at 76 percent and Latin America at 67 percent.
Appendix A summarizes the details and methodology of the VNI forecast.
2012 Year in Review
Global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012, and growth rates varied widely by region. Western Europe, in particular, experienced a slowdown in mobile data traffic, with growth of 44 percent in 2012, substantially lower than the global average. (Reasons for the slower growth of European mobile data traffic growth are outlined in the subsequent section.) Mobile data traffic in Asia Pacific, on the other hand, grew at 95 percent in 2012, a near-doubling of traffic. Table 1 illustrates the continued strong growth in many Asia Pacific countries, compared to the slower growth in Western Europe.
Why Was 2012 Growth Slower than Expected in Some Regions?
Reasons for the slower growth of mobile data traffic growth in some regions include:
1. The implementation of tiered mobile data packages. First introduced in 2009 and 2010, the majority of mobile users have now been migrated to tiered plans. Many operators across the globe have eliminated unlimited data plans.
2. A slowdown in the number of mobile-connected laptop net additions. We estimate that the number of mobile-connected laptops in Europe declined from 33.8 million at the end of 2011 to 32.6 million at the end of 2012. Europe was the only region to experience a decline; all other regions exhibited flat-to-positive growth. Globally, the growth rate in mobile-connected laptops dropped from 28 percent in 2011 to 12 percent in 2012. Since mobile-connected laptops have historically been a major contributor to mobile data traffic volumes, the slowing growth has had a significant impact on our estimates.
3. An increase in the amount of mobile traffic offloaded to the fixed network. Operators have encouraged the offload of traffic onto Wi-Fi networks, and offload rates continue to be high around the world. Tablet traffic that might have migrated to mobile networks has largely remained on fixed networks.
In the long term, mobile data and fixed traffic should settle into the same growth rate, although the mobile data growth rate is likely to remain higher than the fixed growth rate over the next decade.
Global Mobile Data Traffic, 2012 to 2017
Overall mobile data traffic is expected to grow to 11.2 exabytes per month by 2017, a 13-fold increase over 2012. Mobile data traffic will grow at a CAGR of 66 percent from 2012 to 2017 (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Cisco Forecasts 11.2 Exabytes per Month of Mobile Data Traffic by 2017
The Asia Pacific and North America regions will account for almost two-thirds of global mobile traffic by 2017, as shown in Figure 2. Middle East and Africa will experience the highest CAGR of 77 percent, increasing 17.3-fold over the forecast period. Asia Pacific will have the second highest CAGR of 76 percent, increasing 16.9-fold over the forecast period. The emerging market regions of Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe will have CAGRs of 67 percent and 66 percent respectively, and combined with Middle East and Africa will represent an increasing share of total mobile data traffic, up from 19 percent at the end of 2012 to 22 percent by 2017.
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