Mobile Data Usage To Surpass 15 Exabytes by 2018

Mobile Data Usage To Surpass 15 Exabytes by 2018

Did you know that last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly 18 times the size of the entire global internet in 2000!

Gives an interesting perspective of how we use mobile devices doesn’t it?

Based on this statistic, it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that Cisco have predicted that smartphones and tablets will propel mobile data traffic forward to more than 15.9 exabytes per month by 2018.

Just in case exactly how much this is hasn’t quite sunk in, 1 exabyte is approximately 1,707,2495,001.6 gigabytes! Your monthly 2GB data allowance now probably seems quite insignificant compared to that figure.

Using sophisticated research tools and surveys of a broad array of wireless service providers globally, Cisco was able to uncover the details of last year’s mobile data traffic, as well as form some predictions as to how mobile data traffic will evolve leading up to 2018 in their Visual Networking Index for Global Mobile Data Traffic report.

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Global Mobile Data Traffic 2013

2013 was quite a significant year for mobile data, with overall global mobile data traffic increasing by a large percentage when compared to 2012. Other areas of interest, were the rise of mobile data usage generated from tablets and 4G connections as well as the number of wearable devices already in use by consumers.

Monthly Mobile Data Usage Increased 81 Percent

Reaching 1.5 exabytes per month (1536 petabytes) compared to 820 petabytes per month at the end of 2012.


4G Connections A Big Player

30 percent of mobile data traffic was generated by 4G connections, despite only representing around 2.9 percent of mobile connections today.


Average Amount of Traffic Per Smartphone

Reaching 529MB per month in 2013, up from 353MB per month in 2012.


Tablet Data Traffic Surpassing Average Smartphone Data Traffic

The number of tablets using a cellular connection increased to 92 million, with each tablet having generated 2.6 times more traffic than the average smartphone.


Mobile Video the Biggest Source of Mobile Data Traffic

The biggest source of mobile data traffic came from mobile video, which made up more than half of the sources of mobile data traffic.


Wearable Devices on the Rise

The 22 million wearable devices in 2013 generated 1.7 petabytes of monthly traffic.

Where Global Mobile Data Traffic Is Heading

The predictions put forward by Cisco for the future of mobile data traffic are almost incomprehensible. Areas in which we will see the biggest changes are the average monthly smartphone data traffic, the significant increase in the number of mobile-connected devices (both wearables and M2M devices) and the role of tablets in generating mobile data traffic.

Average Monthly Smartphone Data Traffic To Increase 5-Fold

The average smartphone will generate 2.7 GB of traffic per month by 2018, a 5-fold increase over the 2013 average of 529 MB per month.


2014: The Year Mobile-Connected Devices Exceed the Number of People on Earth

  • The number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population by 2014, with 2018 seeing nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita.
  • The number of mobile-connected devices will reach over 10 billion, including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules, which will exceed the predicted world population at that time (7.6 billion).

Smartphone Mobile Data Traffic to Reign Supreme

Due to increased usage on smartphones, smartphones will generate 66 percent of mobile data traffic by 2018.


Monthly Mobile Tablet Traffic to Skyrocket

  • Monthly mobile tablet traffic will surpass 2.5 exabytes per month by 2018.
  • Tablets will exceed 15 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2016.
  • By 2018, mobile-connected tablets will generate nearly double the traffic generated by the entire global mobile network in 2013.
  • The amount of mobile data traffic generated by tablets by 2018 (2.9 exabytes per month) will be 1.9 times higher than the total amount of global mobile data traffic in 2013 (1.5 exabytes per month).

4G is The Future

  • 4G traffic will be more than half of the total mobile traffic by 2018.
  • By 2018, 4G will be 15 percent of connections, but 51 percent of total traffic.
  • By 2018, a 4G connection will generate 6 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection.

Mobile video to increase 14-fold between 2013 and 2018

  • Two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2018.
  • Mobile video will increase 14-fold between 2013 and 2018, accounting for 69 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of the forecast period.


While statistics such as the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population by 2014 are certainly mind blowing, the most interesting aspect of this report is the inclusion of wearable devices.

In fact, this is the first year in which Cisco have added wearables to its annual study of mobile data traffic. With 22 million wearable devices in use globally last year and many of the worlds biggest technology companies investing in wearable technology (think Google Glass, Samsung Gear 2 etc), wearable devices are definitely an important part of our mobile future. Indeed, Cisco have predicted that the number of wearable devices will reach 176.9 million by 2018, however, by 2018 their impact on wireless networks will only form around 5% in conjunction with M2M devices such as cars, in-home thermostats and appliances.

The future of M2M technologies is also interesting to note, particularly when Cisco predict that the number of M2M devices will exceed the predicted population in 2018.

The results in this report give us a glimpse into the future of mobile technology, a future where smartphones and high speed networks dominate the data landscape and wearables and M2M technologies are tightly integrated into our daily lives.

What are your thoughts on the findings from this report? Let us know in the comments below!


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