According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, worldwide mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold over the next five years, reaching 11.2 exabytes per month (for an annual run rate of 134 exabytes) by 2017.
An exabyte is a unit of information or computer storage equal to one quintillion bytes.
The expected steady increase in mobile traffic is partly due to continued strong growth in the number of mobile Internet connections (personal devices and machine-to-machine applications), which will exceed the world?s population (United Nations estimates 7.6 billion).
The forecast?s annual run rate of 134 exabytes of mobile data traffic is equivalent to:
? 134 times all the Internet Protocol traffic (fixed and mobile) generated in the year 2000, or
? 30 trillion images (e.g., via MMS or Instagram) ? 10 daily images from each person on earth for one year, or
? 3 trillion video clips (e.g., YouTube) ? one daily video clip from each person on earth over one year
The projected 2012 to 2017 global mobile data traffic increase represents a compound annual growth rate of 66 percent.
The incremental amount of traffic being added to the mobile Internet just between 2016 and 2017 is 3.7 exabytes per month, which is more than four times the estimated size of the entire mobile Internet in 2012 (884 petabytes per month).
During the 2012 to 2017 forecast period, Cisco anticipates that global mobile data traffic will outgrow global fixed data traffic by three times.
The following major trends are driving global mobile data traffic growth:
1. More mobile users: By 2017, there will be 5.2 billion mobile users (up from 4.3 billion in 2012).
2. More mobile connections: By 2017, there will be more than 10 billion mobile-ready devices/connections, including more than 1.7 billion M2M connections (up from 7 billion total mobile-ready devices and M2M connections in 2012).
3. Faster mobile speeds: Average global mobile network speeds will increase seven-fold from 2012 (0.5 Mbps) to 2017 (3.9 Mbps).
4. More mobile video: By 2017, mobile video will represent 66 percent of global mobile data traffic (up from 51 percent in 2012).
Impact of mobile devices/connections
? Smartphones, laptops, and tablets will drive 93 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2017.
? M2M traffic (such as GPS systems in cars, asset tracking systems, medical applications, etc.) will represent 5 percent of 2017 global mobile data traffic.
? Basic handsets will account for the remaining 2 percent of global mobile data traffic in 2017.
? In 2012, 14 percent of all mobile-connected devices/connections (1 billion) were IPv6-capable.
? By 2017, 41 percent of all mobile-connected devices/connections (4.2 billion) will be IPv6-capable.
Traffic offload from mobile networks to fixed networks
To address the rise in demand for mobile Internet, and to address the lack of available new mobile spectrum and the expense and complexity of adding new macrocell sites, service providers are increasingly looking to offload traffic to fixed or Wi-Fi networks.
? In 2012, 33 percent of total mobile data traffic was offloaded (429 petabytes/month). By 2017, 46 percent of total mobile data traffic will be offloaded (9.6 exabytes/month).
Key regional growth projections
In terms of mobile data traffic growth rates over the forecast period, the Middle East and Africa region are projected to have the highest regional growth rate.
Below is how each of the regions rank in terms of growth rate by 2017:
? The Middle East and Africa: 77 percent compound annual growth rate (17.3-fold growth)
? Asia-Pacific: 76 percent CAGR (17-fold growth)
? Latin America: 67 percent CAGR (13.2-fold growth)
? Central and Eastern Europe: 66 percent CAGR (12.8-fold growth)
? North America: 56 percent CAGR (9.4-fold growth)
? Western Europe: 50 percent CAGR (7.6-fold growth)
In terms of mobile data traffic generation, the Asia-Pacific region is projected to generate the most mobile data traffic.
Here?s how each of the regions rank in terms of anticipated mobile data traffic generation by 2017:
? Asia-Pacific: 5.3 exabytes/month
? North America: 2.1 exabytes/month
? Western Europe: 1.4 exabytes/month
? The Middle East and Africa: 0.9 exabytes/month
? Central and Eastern Europe: 0.8 exabytes/month
? Latin America: 0.7 exabytes/month
Impact of faster global mobile network connection speeds
The average mobile connection is expected to increase seven-fold from 2012 to 2017. Mobile connection speeds are a key factor in supporting mobile data traffic growth
4G adoption and mobile data traffic growth
Many global mobile carriers are deploying 4G technologies to address consumer and business users? demand for wireless services.
In many emerging markets, carriers are creating new mobile networks with 4G solutions.
In mature markets, carriers are supplementing or replacing legacy (2G/3G) networks with 4G technologies. The Cisco Mobile VNI study now projects the growth and impact of 4G.
? In 2012, 2G supported 76 percent of global mobile devices/M2M connections; 3G supported 23 percent; and 4G supported 1 percent.
? By 2017, 2G networks will support 33 percent of global mobile devices/M2M connections; 3G networks will support 57 percent; and 4G networks will support 10 percent.
? In 2012, 4G connections accounted for 14 percent (124 petabytes/month) of mobile data traffic.
? By 2017, 4G connections will account for 45 percent (5 exabytes/month) of mobile data traffic.
? In 2012, the average 4G connection generated 2 gigabytes of mobile data traffic per month, which is 18 times the 0.110 gigabytes/month for the average non-4G connection.
? By 2017, 4G traffic will grow 40-fold, a 109 percent CAGR.