Cisco forecasts booming mobile traffic

8 February 2013 by Steve Blum
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WiFi, femtocells supporting mobile data growth.

A third of mobile data traffic isn’t really mobile. It’s offloaded onto WiFi networks and femtocells, most commonly when consumers use their mobile devices at home.

That’s just one of many fascinating findings in Cisco’s latest report on global mobile data traffic. No surprise: it’s growing at a rapid rate, increasing 70% worldwide in 2012. If it weren’t for offloading onto fixed networks, last year’s increase would have been 96%, assuming mobile carriers could have handled the load. Cisco is predicting that offloaded mobile traffic will grow from 33% to 46% of the total by 2017.

The total is expected to be thirteen times higher by then, the result of a forecasted 66% annual growth rate over the next five years.

Average global connection speeds are climbing. Last year’s average of 526 Kbps was more than double the 248 Kbps rate in 2011. And it’s expected to increase by a factor of seven, hitting the 1 Mbps mark by 2014 and climbing to 3.9 Mbps in 2017. Tablets have the fastest connection speeds, averaging 3.7 Mbps last year, with the expectation of growing to 11.7 Mbps over the same period.

Mobile traffic in 2012 (885 petabytes) was twelve times the total amount of data shipped on the entire Internet in 2000, wired and unwired (75 petabytes). More than half of last year’s mobile traffic – 51% – was video, a share Cisco expects to grow to 67% by 2017.

4G networks are having a huge impact. Although fewer than 1% of mobile data connections were via 4G networks last year, those accounted for 14% of total traffic. It’s predicted to grow to 45% in five years.