Cisco: What Mobile Internet Traffic Will Look Like by 2016?

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According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast for 2011 to 2016, worldwide mobile data traffic will increase 18-fold over the next five years, reaching 10.8 exabytes per month — or an annual run rate of 130 exabytes — by 2016. During 2011−2016 Cisco anticipates that global mobile data traffic will outgrow global fixed data traffic by three times.Mobile Internet

From these findings and forecast, there are several data points from the mobile data VNI we can ponder:

130 Exabytes per Year

That’s the annual run-rate of global mobile data traffic expected by 2016, according to Cisco. Not only is that an amount of data equivalent to 33 billion DVDs or 813 quadrillion SMS text messages, it’s also 130 times more than all IP traffic generated in the year 2000, not even two decades earlier.


Mobile Internet Traffic Expected To Jump 18X

Global mobile data traffic is expected to increase by 18 times from 2011 to 2016, at a compound annual growth rate of 78 percent. By 2016, Cisco predicts the total global mobile data traffic will land somewhere around 10.8 exabytes of data per month.

That’s a higher number and a higher CAGR, Doug Webster, Cisco’s senior director of service provider marketing, pointed out, than was in the mobile data VNI report Cisco released last year. That report held that traffic would reach about 6.3 exabytes per month by 2015, while the current report has 2015’s number at 6.9 exabytes per month.


3X the Current Mobile Internet

According to Cisco’s findings, the incremental amount of monthly mobile data traffic added to the forecast from 2015 to 2016 — about 3.9 exabytes — is three times more than the monthly mobile data traffic projected for 2012.

“We knew that data was going to continue to increase at a very healthy rate, and to me what is even more insightful is the incremental amount of traffic that’s going to be added into the network,” said Webster. “The equivalent of three times the mobile Internet in 2012 is going to be added on top of the mobile Internet during that time period. We’re talking about tripling the mobile Internet in a short period.”


Mobile’s Fixed Feeling

“The rise of the mobile Internet is no longer a separate service in and of itself — it’s mimicking the fixed network,” Webster said. “We’re seeing much the same growth we saw in fixed IP networks in 2000, and that’s creating a need for seamless mobility between a service provider network and the enterprise network.”


Consumer/Business Usage Blur

Cisco clocks the global mobile data traffic CAGR for business users at 66 percent from 2011 to 2016, and the global mobile data traffic CAGR for consumer users at 83 percent.

Cisco said it bases the data — i.e. whether it’s counted as business usage or consumer usage — on who pays for the connection, said Arielle Sumits, a researcher on Cisco’s VNI team. Consumer will represent a larger piece of the overall pie — 76.9 percent of the exabytes per month consumption by 2016, vs. 23.1 percent for business users, but Sumits and Webster admitted the lines between business and consumer usage will continue to blur.


SPs Should Be Thankful For Wi-Fi

“Wi-Fi in and of itself is still significantly greater than the overall mobile Internet — about 5x greater than the entire mobile Internet will be by 2016,” Webster said. “Wi-Fi is going to be a saving grace for service providers that can off-load a fair amount of traffic from the cellular network over to the Wi-Fi.”

The network technology intelligence needed to do that efficiently is also arriving, Webster said, giving the example of someone talking on a mobile phone while in a car and then having an automatic switch-over to a home fem-to-cell upon arriving at his house.

“It’s seamless mobility, but it takes a great deal of network intelligence to make that happen,” he said.

According to Cisco, by 2016, 22 percent of mobile data traffic will be off-loaded traffic from mobile devices, compared with 11 percent in 2011.


APAC Is the Hungriest Hippo

Not surprisingly, the Asia Pacific region, including Japan, is expected to generate 40 percent of all mobile data traffic by 2016, with Western Europe (22.56 percent) and North America (18.18 percent) a distant second and third. It’s the Middle East and Africa region that will have the highest compound annual growth rate in traffic from 2011 to 2016, however. Cisco expects the region to grow 104 percent during that time frame.


Gettin’ Cloudy

While noncloud mobile traffic currently outpaces cloud computing-based mobile traffic 55 percent to 45 percent, the balance will tip in favor of mobile cloud traffic as early as this year, Cisco predicts. By 2016, cloud-based mobile traffic will account for 71 percent of overall mobile traffic, according to the VNI report.


The Gigabyte Club

By 2016, Cisco sees 60 percent of mobile users — about 3 billion people — as generating more than 1 gigabyte of mobile data traffic per month. That’s a big number of data hogs compared to 2011, where the percentage was 0.5 percent, according to Cisco.

By 2016, the average mobile user will generate 1.2 GB of traffic per month, compared to 92 MB in 2011.


More People, Many More Connections

Cisco pegs the number of mobile connections per capita at 1.4, including both mobile devices and machine to machine (M2M) connections. Cisco also sees more than 10 billion mobile connections by 2016, compared to the United Nations global population estimate of 7.3 billion people.

The VNI also suggests that one-quarter of all mobile users will have two or more mobile devices by 2016, compared with 8 percent of mobile users in 2011.

Laptops were still dominating in 2011, but smartphones will lead by 2016, expected to account for 48.3 percent of global mobile data traffic compared to laptops and notebooks at 24.2 percent. Tablets are the third growth category, expected to drive 10 percent of mobile data traffic by 2016.


M2M Has Arrived

The emerging mobile data connection category to watch is machine-to-machine (M2M), whose traffic is predicted to increase 22 times from 2011 and 2016, to 508 potables per month compared to 23 petabytes in 2011.

“M2M is just getting into the mainstream now,” Webster said. “You’ll see more and more different vertical applications in places like smart grid, supply chain management, transportation, health care. From a network planning standpoint, M2M communications are far more predictable than human communications are.”


Video’s Mobile App Domination

By 2016, mobile video will account for 70.5 percent of mobile data traffic growth by application, with the mobile Web/data at a far distant 20.0 percent. Mobile M2M is the next biggest category, expected to be 4.7 percent, with mobile file sharing, mobile gaming and mobile VoIP lagging behind that, Cisco said.

—Original resource from


NOTES: Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast is an annual report examining trends in the mobile Internet and the increasingly pressing demands that mobile data places on service provider infrastructure.

The research is part of Cisco’s VNI series, an ongoing set of Cisco-developed research reports designed to predate global traffic growth, and the Global Mobile Data update focuses on consumer and business mobile data traffic and its key drivers. Cisco uses third-party sources for some of its data collection — such as service providers’ expectations for subscriber growth in certain market segments — but develops the research and conclusions in-house.


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