Mobile data use to surge

07 February 2011

SAN JOSE: Consumers across the globe are expected to dramatically increase their mobile data usage in the next five years, a trend driven by tablets and online video.

Networking giant Cisco predicted the transfer of information via wireless handsets would rise 26 times over - or by 92% annually - between now and 2015, hitting 6.3 exabytes a year, equivalent to the data capacity of 19bn DVDs.

This should build on an expansion of 237 petabytes, roughly 60m DVDs, a month in 2010, a speed of growth quadrupling that of fixed broadband.

"Consumers and business users continue to demonstrate a healthy demand for mobile data services," said Suraj Shetty, Cisco's vice president, worldwide service provider marketing.

"The seemingly endless bevy of new mobile devices, combined with greater mobile broadband access, more content, and applications of all types - especially video - are the key catalysts driving this remarkable growth."

Overall, the top 1% of users were responsible for 21% of activity last year, down from 30% in the prior 12 months.

Smartphones, tablets, and to a lesser extent laptops, will be the main drivers of uptake going forward, taking a collective 87% share by 2015.

More specifically, gadgets like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy should log a 205-fold improvement during the timeframe under assessment.

Average smartphone usage rose from 35 megabytes to 79 megabytes per month in 2010, and offerings such as the iPhone and similar alternatives held a 13% market share but contributed 78% of traffic.

Cisco stated that the typical iPhone requested four times more information than other appliances at the start of 2010, but Google Android phones closed this gap to 1.75 times at its end.

Tablets also generated five times more traffic than the median smartphone, on 405 megabytes a month, measured against just 3.3 megabytes for feature phones, which make up 87% of mobile phones.

Regarding content, video consumption will expand 35-fold, fuelling a leap from 49.8% of volume usage in 2010 to 52.8% in 2011 and approximately 66% in 2011.

In evidence of this shift in practice, Google reported the number of YouTube videos delivered to wireless devices tripled in 2010, reaching 200m per day.

KT, the Korean mobile specialist, revealed its 3G traffic had increased 344% year-on-year by mid-2010, totals coming in at 232% for SK Telecom and 114% for LG.

In Japan, HSBC estimated Softbank's parallel figures grew 260% over the 12 months to Q1 2010, while NTT DoCoMo registered a 60% improvement, and KDDI has predicted a 15-fold surge to 2015.

Elsewhere, China Unicom, the exclusive Chinese carrier of the iPhone, witnessed a 62% jump between the first and second quarters of 2010 alone.

Vodafone also asserted that European demand rose 88% year-on-year in Q2 2010, and AT&T saw a 30-fold lift from Q3 2009 to Q3 2010.

Looking ahead, Cisco forecast 5.6bn personal appliances will be connected to mobile networks in five years time.

Indeed, by 2015, there could be 788m mobile-only internet users, compared with 14m last year, and 420m of this audience will be based in Asia Pacific.

Smartphone ownership should increase 24% in this period, an amount standing at 79% for portable gaming consoles and 105% for tablets, and all of these devices are due to post upticks surpassing 100% in terms of traffic.

Data sourced from Cisco; additional content by Warc staff