Cisco's Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update report was released today, indicating that Mobile consumers in North America will use the most mobile data per month than any other country in 2017. By that time, mobile usage in the Asia-Pacific region will push the most data worldwide, using 47.1 percent of all traffic, which will result in an increase of 35 percent from last year.
In 2012, the report shows that smartphone usage on average grew to 81 percent, and for each smartphone, the average amount of data traffic per month in 2012 was 342 MB, up from 189 MB per month in 2011 (in comparison, non-smartphones, such as feature phones, only used 50 percent less, at 6.8 MB per month.)
That number, however, increased to 35 percent usage from 2011, which accounted for a little less at 5 MB data usage per month. Despite smartphones using up a total of 92 percent of data worldwide, feature phones still made up the vast majority of mobile devices on the network at 82 percent, compared to smartphones, which took up only 18 percent of total used devices. While growth rates vary by region, global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012. Western Europe experienced a fall in data traffic, which ended the year with a growth of 44 percent.
That could be due to several issues and events, such as the implementation of tiered mobile data packages, which ultimately caused some carriers to eliminate unlimited data plans. Tiered mobile data packages were first introduced in 2009 and 2010, of which the majority of mobile users have now been shifted to. Also, it could be the fact that laptops are selling less and more people are relying on mobile devices to carry out their tasks. The report estimates that at the end of 2011, the number of mobile connected laptops in Europe were 33.8 million, and had dropped down to 32.6 million at the end of 2012. Europe, in particular, was the only region to experience a decline, while the remaining regions of the world indicated a flat-to-positive growth.
A third reason would be an increase in the amount of mobile traffic offloaded to the fixed network. To keep their networks high-speed, carriers have often encouraged the offload of traffic onto Wi-Fi networks, and continues a high offload rate around the world. Even though there is a multitude of tablets that use mobile data, mobile data traffic from tablets has largely remained on fixed networks.
In 2017, the report expects mobile data traffic to grow to 11.2 exabytes (a billion gigabytes) per month, with growth moving at a rate of 66 percent, the report predicts a massive 13-fold increase worldwide. The Asia-Pacific and North America regions will account for almost two-thirds of global mobile traffic by 2017, the Middle East and Africa will experience the highest growth rate of 77 percent, increasing 17.3-fold over the forecast period.
Asia-Pacific will have the second highest rate of 76 percent, increasing 16.9-fold over the forecast period. While Latin America is expected to grow by 67 percent, Central and Eastern Europe are expected to grow 66 percent. Considering those emerging markets with the Middle East and Africa, the report insists that there will be an increasing share of mobile data, from 19 percent in 2012, to 22 percent in 2017.
High-end handsets, tablets, and laptops are said to be the bigger contributors to the higher data usage, due to more content and applications available than some of the low-budget models. A single smartphone can use as much traffic as fifty feature phones. Tablets on the other hand, can run as much traffic as 120 feature phones, while a single laptop can powerhouse as much data traffic as 368 feature phones, according to the report.
On a final note, Cisco mentions its view on the growth of 4G and LTE throughout the forecast period, indicating that the number of 4G connections around the world would reach 992 million in 2017, a sharp increase from 2012, which yielded 60.4 million. Cisco's report indicates that at the end of 2012, only 1 percent of connections worldwide were connected to a 4G network, and that 1 percent pushed 14 percent of total mobile data traffic across the globe. By the time 2017 arrives, Cisco's report expects that 4G connections will take a massive jump to 10 percent, which will shovel out 45 percent of global data traffic.