Smartphone usage has been growing exponentially in the past few years and an obvious consequence is the increase of mobile data usage. Thousands of social apps transferring billions of images a day, music streaming services and mobile video view have increased the monthly data usage significantly. If you had a 500 MB monthly plan 2 years ago and it seemed a lot, today you won’t last even a week, depending on how much you use it. Average data usage in North America today is 3.8 GB a month per smartphone, but a report from network equipment giant Ericsson says that this number will increase by almost 600% by 2021, a significant bump.
In its latest Mobility Report, the Swedish company informs that currently there are as many mobile subscriptions as people in the world, although not everyone has a mobile phone, with billions of people still out of the pie. Every second 20 new lines are activated, and allied with the constant growth of the smartphone market, the mobile data will grow at amazing numbers in just 6 years. The main forces driving the growth will be video streaming and the advent of the ultra-fast 5G network, which will offer a lot more network capacity than current 4G technologies. According to the report, video streaming will correspond to 70% of all traffic. Netflix alone is responsible for around 37% of all internet traffic in North America during peak times. Facebook is investing hard in video with 8 billion views per day, double what it had 3 months ago, and Google is investing hard on YouTube too to counter heavy competition. Not to mention several other video websites such as Vimeo, Vine, Twitch, streaming services such as Hulu, HBO Go, newcomer Go90 from Verizon and many others in the U.S. and around the world.
Mobile broadband subscribers globally are increasing by 25% year-over-year, with a 160 million increase only in the third quarter of 2015. LTE subscribers have reached 850 million worldwide and this number is set to grow significantly, as in the mentioned period there were 120 million new subscribers. All this growth will mean a considerable increase in revenue for carriers, but it will also present great challenges. The most import of all is that they will need to improve and adapt their network infrastructure in order to support all this huge extra traffic, which will also be accompanied by IoT devices, smart home appliances, machine-to-machine connections, and connected cars.