Cisco: Mobile Data Traffic 18-Fold Increase By 2016

We recently reported on how the global growth of mobile device usage may cripple the wireless airwaves as available bandwidth from the wireless network carriers will eventually reach saturation unless the FCC takes drastic steps to increase supply.

A new report just released by Cisco expands upon these findings.
They project mobile cloud traffic to account for 71%, or 7.6 Exabytes per Month, of total mobile data traffic by 2016. Compare this to the current number of 45%, or 269 Petabytes per month in 2011 and you can easily visualize the eventual wireless saturation scenario.

According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index report, the global worldwide mobile data traffic will increase 18-fold over the next five years, reaching 10.8 exabytes per month or an annual rate of 130 exabytes by 2016.

The expected sharp increase in mobile traffic is due largely to a projected increase in the number of mobile Internet - connected devices, which will exceed the number of people on earth (2016 world population estimate of 7.3 billion according to the UN). During 2011−2016 Cisco anticipates that global mobile data traffic will outgrow global fixed data traffic by three times.

The forecast predicts an annual run rate of 130 exabytes of mobile data traffic, equivalent to the following:
33 billion DVDs.

4.3 quadrillion MP3 files (music/audio).

813 quadrillion short message service (SMS) text messages.

This mobile data traffic increase represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 78 percent spanning the forecast period. The incremental amount of traffic being added to the mobile Internet between 2015 and 2016 alone is approximately three times the estimated size of the entire mobile Internet in 2012. 

The following trends are driving these significant increases:

1. More Streamed Content:

With the consumer expectations increasingly requiring on-demand or streamed content versus simply downloaded content, mobile cloud traffic will increase, growing 28-fold from 2011 to 2016, a CAGR of 95 percent.


2. More Mobile Connections:

There will be more than 10 billion mobile Internet-connected devices in 2016, including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules -- exceeding the world's projected population at that time of 7.3 billion.(One M2M application is the use of wireless networks to update digital billboards. This allows advertisers to display different messages based on time of day or day-of-week and allows quick global changes for messages, such as pricing changes for gasoline).


3. Enhanced Computing of Devices:

Mobile devices are becoming more powerful and thus able to consume and generate more data traffic. Tablets are a prime example of this trend generating traffic levels that will grow 62-fold from 2011 to 2016 -- the highest growth rate of any device category tracked in the forecast. The amount of mobile data traffic generated by tablets in 2016 (1 exabyte per month) will be four times the total amount of monthly global mobile data traffic in 2010 (237 petabytes per month).

4. Faster Mobile Speeds: 

Mobile network connection speed is a key enabler for mobile data traffic growth. More speed means more consumption, and Cisco projects mobile speeds (including 2G, 3G and 4G networks) to increase nine-fold from 2011 to 2016.

5. More Mobile Video: 

Mobile users want the best experiences they can have and that generally means mobile video, which will comprise 71 percent of all mobile data traffic by 2016.



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Bill has been a member of the technology and publishing industries for more than 25 years and brings extensive expertise to the roles of CEO, CIO, and Executive Editor. Most recently, Bill was COO and Co-Founder of and the parent company PSN Inc. Previously, Bill held the position of CTO of both Wiseads New Media and