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Mobile Traffic to Hit 18 Exabytes Per Month by 2018

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Data is increasing going mobile. That’s not a surprise, but the volume and speed of growth might be a surprise to some.

Cisco today released its annual Visual Networking Index for mobile data, and in the period covering 2013 to 2018 the expectation is for an 11x increase in mobile traffic. The Combined Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for mobile traffic will grow by 61 percent between 2013 and 2018 – up to a staggering 190 Exabytes a year in 2018 with 18 exabytes of mobile data transferred every month.

While the volume of mobile data is growing rapidly, the number of actual human mobile users isn’t on quite the same trajectory. Cisco estimates that in 2013 there were 4.1 billion mobile users, which will rise to 4.9 billion by 2018.

That said, Cisco notes that the number of devices consuming mobile data will surpass 10 billion by 2018. Of those devices 8 billion will will be consumer devices and the other 2 billion will be machine to machine connections, though consumer devices will generate more traffic. By 2018, Consumer devices including tablets, smartphone and laptops will generate 94 percent of all mobile traffic.

Looking at traffic by device type, most of the mobile data traffic in 2013 was generated by smartphones, representing 62 percent of all mobile data traffic. By 2018, Cisco is forecasting that to grow to 66 percent of all mobile data traffic. Tablets in 2013 represented nine percent of global data traffic and will grow to 18 percent by 2018.

While smartphone and tablet data growth are growing, laptop mobile data growth as a percentage of total mobile data usage is not. In 2013 laptops accounted for 25 percent of global mobile data traffic and that number will fall to only 9 percent by 2018 as other smartphone and tablet usage grows.

All those devices will be connecting at faster speeds than today with the average global mobile network speed in 2018 expected to be 2.5 Mbps, up from 1.4 in 2013. Adoption of 4G mobile technology will be a key driver in the increased speeds.

According to Cisco, only 2.9 percent of all mobile connections in 2013 supported 4G. That figure will grow to 15 percent by 2018. In terms of traffic, Cisco is forecasting a 78 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for 4G traffic, growing from 448 petabytes a month in 2013 to 8 exabytes per month in 2018.

Video is the Killer App

So what is the primary bandwidth using technology driving all the mobile data growth? It’s video of course.

In 2013 video represented 53 percent of all global mobile traffic and will grow to become 69 percent of all mobile data traffic by 2018. While video is set to grow as a percentage of global mobile traffic, audio is set to slip. Streaming audio in 2013 accounted for 14 percent of mobile traffic and will fall to 11 percent by 2018.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Datamation and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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