Global mobile data traffic to surpass 15 exabytes per month by 2018

J.D. Sartain

Cisco Systems' latest Visual Networking Index predicts that global mobile data traffic will exceed 15 exabytes per month in 2018 - 10 times the total reached at the end of 2013 and roughly 180 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. The 2013 global mobile traffic data total, 1.5EB, represents an 81 percent increase over 2012's 820 petabytes per month.

Smartphones accounted for 77 percent of the 526 million mobile devices and connections added in 2013. The number of tablets in use increased to 92 million, as did data traffic (more than 1.3GB per month, per tablet); tablets will represent about one-sixth of mobile data traffic by 2018, Cisco says.

Meanwhile, 149 million laptops generated 2.45GB apiece and 2 million wearable devices each generated 1.7PB. All in all, sometime in 2014 the number of mobile-connected devices will surpass the world's population by 2014, Cisco says.

Smartphones Will Dominate, But Don't Neglect Internet of Things
"Our findings continue to highlight trends around the pervasiveness and continuing demand for mobile connectivity and services," says Thomas Barnett, marketing director for the Cisco Service Provider program. At the end of 2013, more than 4 billion people were mobile users, Barnett says. That number will grow to 5 billion by 2018. By then, the average mobile connection speed will have surpassed 2Mbps, Cisco says.

"These numbers really speak to the pervasive nature of mobile technology," Barnett says. "This trend is particularly relevant in emerging markets where the mobile Internet may be some users' only connection to the Internet."

Tuong Huy Nguyen, consumer technology and markets analyst at Gartner, says smartphone will represent 85 percent of all phones sales by 2017. But the question on mobile data traffic is tricky, he says, because a growing number of connected devices contribute to the data mix - machine-to-machine (M2M) connections are one factor, as is wearable technology such as watches, jewelry, fitness bands and health monitoring devices.

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show CES, Nguyen says he saw home monitoring and security solutions coming to market "much more significantly than in the past." There's also the Internet of Things, the network of objects that use embedded tech to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or external environment. "In the short term, I believe smartphones will still be driving a significant amount of data traffic," Nguyen says, "but this will evolve as the aforementioned technologies mature and become increasingly mainstream."

Barnett adds that the BYOD phenomenon will continue without slowing down. New types, shapes and sizes of mobile devices will be adopted on corporate network, although there will be a transformation of other mobile device forms. In response to slow growth in adoption, particularly in Western Europe and North America, many laptops are adding features and functions similar to tablets in order to stay competitive.

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