The smartphone market has grown very, very quickly. Likewise, the amount of mobile data that we have been using has grown very quickly, as is expected only to accelerate. In fact, a recent Reuters story covering a Cisco report shows us that we can expect the amount of mobile data we use to increase eight-fold by 2018. You read that right. Eight times the data we use now. That would mean that in four years, we will use more data on our smartphones than we used on our laptops this past year. The actual number that Cisco predicts is that we will use is 2.7 exabytes a month in 2018. An exabyte is a one followed by 18 zeros, or 1,000,000,000GB a month (a terabyte is 1,000GB, a petabyte is 1,000TB, and an exabyte is 1,000PB). This number is very, very large.
Now what does this mean? Well, we will be using a lot more data in the future. That means that it will be much more likely for us to be paying a lot of overage fees. AT&T and Verizon have some very high prices for overages, and these could become extremely problematic for their customers. Should the mobile traffic expand as much as Cisco expects it to, we will need to see some things change. Carriers will need to alter their plans and their networks to account for this. Cisco's director of government affairs feels that if the technology does not improve fast enough and that if more mobile spectrum isn't added in the near future, there will be some major congestion problems on networks. The FCC is working on this, but the question is, will it be enough?
Cisco also says that U.S. carriers will use more Wi-Fi connections to automatically divert data traffic, which could help with the data flow. However, the only real way to fix this impending problem is to give more spectrum. As people become more dependent on mobile data to stay connected, the amount of data use will be excessive. Just to revisit the amount of data, 2.7 exabytes is equal to 675,000,000 CDs. Today, we barely send over .3 exabytes a month, so the next 4 years will be very interesting for the mobile industry. Even with the FCC looking to expand spectrum, we can't help but wonder if it will suffice.