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

J.D. Sartain

Apps, Video Dominance Mobile Data Traffic
Video and file transfers such as images and downloads largely drive mobile device traffic, says Forrester analyst Julie A. Ask. Messaging and Internet usage, on the other hand, are "light."

Cisco's data supports this. Though smartphones represent only 27 percent of total global handsets in use, they were responsible for 95 percent of the total global handset traffic, generated 48 times more monthly mobile data traffic (529MB per device) than basic-feature cellphones (11MB).

Any device that can consume media, especially video, will continue to drive mobile traffic, Ask says. (Not surprisingly, Cisco says smartphones will reach 66 percent of mobile data traffic by 2018.) Consumers will upgrade to faster networks when they can afford the plans and devices, she says - and the faster the network, the more data that users will consume and pay for.

Barnett agrees, noting that video will account for more than two-thirds of mobile data traffic by 2018. Other than M2M, that's the highest growth rate of any mobile application category Cisco forecast. "We continue to see the mobile network serving multimedia demands for both business and consumer users as a means of having the same experience that we have from fixed networks," he says.

Whether accessing our entertainment and communications from home or conducting business on a mobile device, consumers expect access to the same services and content, as well as a similar performance experience from mobile and fixed networks, Barnett says. While the primary types of mobile video today come from downloaded content, there's significant growth in real-time communications (think Skype and Facetime), as well as live streamed programming.

"As we have more powerful networks and more powerful devices, these types of applications and experiences become more readily available to us as an expanding global mobile community," Barnett says.

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