7 Shocking Stats From Cisco's Mobile Traffic Forecast4:00 PM EST Thu. Feb. 14, 2013
Trends like BYOD and the consumerization of IT thrust mobility into the tech spotlight last year, but Cisco doesn't expect the story to end there.
The networking giant made some lofty projections in its latest Visual Networking Index (VNI), an annually released report that details mobile trends, ranging from device adoption to the rate at which data traffic is being produced around the world. This year's results, like in the past, were based on analyst forecasts and real-world mobile data usage studies, with a dash of Cisco's own estimates layered on top.
Here are seven shocking statistics from this year's VNI, providing a (sometimes eerie) glimpse into our mobile-driven future.
To say mobile data traffic is poised to grow over the next five years would be an understatement.
By Cisco's estimates, worldwide mobile data traffic is set to increase 13-fold by 2017, reaching a whopping 11.2 exabytes of traffic per month, or an annual run-rate of 134 exabytes. To put that in perspective, a single exabyte of computer storage equals one quintillion bytes.
Cisco said this rapid growth in traffic is being fueled predominantly by the rising number of mobile Internet connections, such as those enabled by smartphones and tablets; next year, the number of connected mobile devices is set to surpass the world's population of 7 billion.
For Cisco's guidance to be accurate -- meaning the world really will generate an annual run-rate of 134 extabytes of mobile traffic by 2017 -- mobile users will need to stay busy.
That 134 exabytes of traffic is equivalent to 30 trillion images being posted to Instagram, or 10 images, every day for a year, from each person on earth. It's also equivalent to 3 trillion video clips being posted to YouTube, or one video clip being posted every day, by every person on earth, for more than a year.
According to Cisco, 134 exabytes would be 134 times more traffic than all Internet Protocol (IP) traffic generated in 2000.
Mobile devices including smartphones, laptops and tablets will be the key drivers behind this traffic explosion, Cisco projects, generating 93 percent of all mobile data traffic by 2017.
Machine-to-machine traffic, such as that created by GPS consoles in cars, asset tracking systems and medical applications will represent 5 percent of all mobile data traffic by 2017, while basic handsets will account for the remaining 2 percent.
Smartphones and tablets, of course, couldn't be considered a major mobile traffic driver if users weren't flocking to them in droves.
Cisco estimates there will be 5.2 billion mobile users by 2017, up from the 4.3 billion users in 2012. Also by 2017, there will be more than 10 billion mobile devices being used around the globe, compared to the 7 billion devices that were in circulation last year. Average smartphone usage already grew 81 percent in 2012 alone.
As smartphone and tablet adoption soars, Cisco expects average global mobile network speeds will increase 7-fold from 0.5 Mbps in 2012 to 3.9 Mbps in 2017. What's more, mobile video in five years will represent 66 percent of all global mobile data traffic -- up more than 50 percent since last year.
The use of long-term evolution networks -- or 4G -- is also set to skyrocket over the next five years.
By Cisco's measures, 4G networks will support 10 percent of all mobile devices and M2M connections by 2017, a figure that may seem small, but represents a hefty jump from the 1 percent of mobile devices 4G networks fueled in 2012. It also means 4G connections will account for 45 percent of worldwide mobile data traffic within just five years.
Cisco did the math, and figured out 4G traffic will grow 40-fold from 2012 to 2017, representing a 109 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
According to Cisco, the Middle East and Africa combined will see the highest compound annual growth (CAGR) of mobile data traffic over the course of the next five years, at 77 percent. The Asia-Pacific region will follow at 76 percent, with Latin America coming in third at 67 percent.
Pretty much every other corner of the globe will follow suit; Cisco projects Central and Eastern Europe to see a mobile data traffic CAGR of 66 percent, while North America will see a growth rate of 56 percent, and Western Europe, 50 percent.
There's no doubt North America has become mobile-device crazy, with consumers braving two-day-long lines just to land the latest iPhone. But, if Cisco's calculations are correct, it will be the Asia Pacific region that generates the most mobile data traffic by 2017.
Specifically, Asia-Pac in five years is expected to generate a whopping 5.3 exabytes of mobile data traffic a month, a figure that far surpasses runner-up North America's 2.1 exabytes. After North America, Cisco projects Western Europe to be the biggest data drivers, creating 1.4 exabytes in mobile traffic a month.
The Middle East and Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America fell on the shorter end of Cisco's projections, accounting for 0.9 exabytes, 0.8 exabytes and 0.7 exabytes of traffic a month.