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It's going to be a busy year for data center operators and wireless providers.
IT market research firm predicts that this year, mobile data traffic will rise 59 percent, reaching a total of 51.8 million terabytes (TB), compared to the 32.5 million TB of data traffic that coursed through the world's mobile networks last year. By 2016, 79.5 million TB of data are expected to traverse those networks.
Faster and more affordable 3G- and 4G-capable handsets are part of the reason traffic keeps rising, but data-hungry apps are the real culprits. Gartner said that "the key driver of data growth on a global scale is mobile apps, particularly mobile video apps," in a statement.
This week, Cisco released its Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, covering 2014 to 2019. "By 2019, Cisco expects 4G will support 26 percent of mobile data connections, and 3G will hold down 44 percent of the market share," noted Sean Michael Kerner in his report for Enterprise Networking Planet. 4G connections are expected to generate up to 5.5 GB of traffic by 2019 compared to just 2.2 GB in 2014.
Last year, Cisco estimated that mobile networks handled 4.3 billion mobile users. By 2019, the number is expected to swell to 5.2 billion.
The U.S. will help push 4G adoption rates, but 3G still has plenty of life left in it, according to Gartner.
"We predict that, in 2018, half of North American mobile connections will use 4G networks, but in the Middle East and Africa 4G users will amount to only 3.5 percent of the region's total," stated the firm. "We expect 3G connections to grow by 45.7 percent globally in 2015. This double-digit growth shows the longevity and importance of 3G networks."
Smartphone and tablet users may value fast, rock-solid connections, but the analyst group observed that "it is really apps and content that are driving traffic volumes as people increasingly chat to friends and family, watch videos on the move, and listen to streamed music."
In fact, mobile video accounts for 50 percent of all mobile data, Gartner found. In 2018, video is predicted to generate 60 percent of all mobile data traffic.
Gartner also noted that video-calling services are on the rise, which can quickly add up for wireless communications providers. "In terms of traffic, five minutes of 3G FaceTime video calling uses up to 15 [megabytes] MB of data — a small amount. However, as there are many users, the collective total amount can be large."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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