SAN JOSE, CA: Mobile data traffic is forecast to grow seven-fold by 2021 because of strong growth in mobile users, smartphones and Internet of Things (IoT) connections as well as network speed improvements and mobile video consumption.

That is according to the latest Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast from tech firm Cisco, which expects more people to be using mobile phones (5.5bn) in 2021 than bank accounts, running water and landlines.

Cisco further predicts that there will be nearly 12bn mobile-connected devices, or 1.5 mobile devices per capita, up from 8bn and 1.1 per capita in 2016.

In addition, the total number of smartphones, including phablets, is expected to account for more than half of all devices and connections in the world.

According to the report, the "explosion of mobile applications and adoption of mobile connectivity by end users is fueling the growth of 4G, soon to be followed by 5G growth".

As such, 4G is expected to support 58% of total mobile connections by 2021, up from 26% in 2016, and will account for 79% of total mobile data traffic.

5G is expected to play a smaller role over the same period, accounting for just 1.5% of total mobile data traffic by 2021. However, it will generate 4.7 times more traffic than the average 4G connection and 10.7 times more traffic than the average 3G connection.

"With the proliferation of IoT, live mobile video, augmented and virtual reality applications, and more innovative experiences for consumer and business users alike, 5G technology will have significant relevance not just for mobility but rather for networking as a whole," said Doug Webster, Cisco VP of Service Provider Marketing.

"As a result, broader and more extensive architectural transformations involving programmability and automation will also be needed to support the capabilities 5G enables, and to address not just today's demands but also the extensive possibilities on the horizon."

Data sourced from Cisco; additional content by Warc staff