Mobile data traffic expected to grow ten-fold by 2016

Mobile data traffic is expected to grow ten-fold by 2016, according to research published by Ericsson. The firm said that this rise will be driven by a combination of emerging markets gaining better access to smartphones and mature markets using services that rely on mobile broadband more extensively.

The firm’s research showed that mobile broadband subscriptions grew by 60 per cent year-on-year in 2011 and is expected to grow from 900m this year to almost five billion subscribers in 2016. Meanwhile, total smartphone traffic is expected to triple during 2011 alone.

According to Patrick Cerwall, director of strategic marketing at Ericsson, there is strong momentum for smartphone uptake in all regions, and the traffic generated by connected PCs and tablet devices will match that generated by smartphones.

“A smartphone might use up to 700MB per month in traffic, while a mobile PC or tablet could generate from 1GB to as much as 7GB,” he said.

He added that the usage pattern of tablets is similar to smartphones but there will be fewer tablets than smartphones. In fact, in terms of the overall amount of subscriptions per device type, mobile PCs and tablets will make up just a tenth of the total devices contributing to mobile broadband traffic.

However, Cerwall claimed that tablets will definitely play a big role in this rise in mobile data traffic, due to their capabilities.

“Online video is something you might use more on a tablet, but the big difference with mobile PCs is that you’ll probably see a lot of file-sharing and software downloads, and that sort of thing comes into the picture as you download much more.”

One comment

  1. Avatar Adnan Saleem 14/11/2011 @ 10:51 am

    Ericsson’s research forecasts that mobile data traffic is to grow ten-fold by 2016.

    Arguably, that’s conservative by comparison with some previous industry predictions. But this begs one very important question: can mobile infrastructure keep pace? Over the air (OTA) bandwidth increases, due to LTE and upcoming LTE-Advanced technologies, will certainly provide significant improvements, at least in theoretical terms. But OTA bandwidth increases are not sufficient. The mobile backhaul and core networks also need to increase capacity in relative terms.

    The cost associated with network upgrades to keep in sync with OTA capacity and bandwidth increases will be enormous, and possibly beyond what carriers can justify (or afford!) given current pricing and business models. Different approaches must be found. Carriers must utilize mobile network infrastructure more efficiently than ever to support these ten-fold increases. They must also develop new revenue streams.

    Advances in efficiency and new revenue streams go hand in hand: as bandwidth is utilized more efficiently it allows a larger number of mobile subscribers to be supported on a given network. Since video is expected to be the largest consumer of bandwidth, it provides the largest opportunity for increases in bandwidth efficiencies.

    Tiered plans, based on quality of service for media delivery applications ties in well with the ability to optimize video content, not solely on available bandwidth but also based on a number of other factors, including subscription plans, value of content, and content monetization. Simply adjusting or optimizing video quality to adapt to bandwidth availability, although a good start, will not be sufficient. More sophisticated video optimization engines that also factor in policy and monetization aspects will be equally as important to ensure the massive increases in mobile data traffic – ten-fold or otherwise – can be technically and economically sustainable.

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