Worldwide mobile data traffic will increase 18-fold over the next five years, reaching 10.8 exabytes per month or an annual run rate of 130 exabytes by 2016, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast for 2011 to 2016
The expected sharp increase in mobile traffic is due, in part, to a projected surge in the number of mobile Internet-connected devices, which will exceed the number of people on earth (2016 world population estimate of 7.3 billion (source: United Nations). During 2011-2016 Cisco anticipates that global mobile data traffic will outgrow global fixed data traffic by three times.
The forecast predicts an annual run rate of 130 exabytes of mobile data traffic, equivalent to 33 billion DVDs, 4.3 quadrillion MP3 files (music/audio), 813 quadrillion short message service (SMS) text messages. An exabyte is a unit of information or computer storage equal to 1 quintillion bytes.
This mobile data traffic increase represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 78 percent spanning the forecast period. The incremental amount of traffic being added to the mobile Internet between 2015 and 2016 alone is approximately three times the estimated size of the entire mobile Internet in 2012.
With the consumer expectations increasingly requiring on-demand or streamed content versus simply downloaded content, mobile cloud traffic will increase, growing 28-fold from 2011 to 2016, a CAGR of 95 percent.
There will be more than 10 billion mobile Internet-connected devices in 2016, including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules -- exceeding the world’s projected population at that time of 7.3 billion. (One M2M application is the use of wireless networks to update digital billboards. This allows advertisers to display different messages based on time of day or day-of-week and allows quick global changes for messages, such as pricing changes for gasoline).
Mobile devices are becoming more powerful and thus able to consume and generate more data traffic. Tablets are a prime example of this trend generating traffic levels that will grow 62-fold from 2011 to 2016 -- the highest growth rate of any device category tracked in the forecast. The amount of mobile data traffic generated by tablets in 2016 (1 exabyte per month) will be four times the total amount of monthly global mobile data traffic in 2010 (237 petabytes per month).
Mobile network connection speed is a key enabler for mobile data traffic growth. More speed means more consumption, and Cisco projects mobile speeds (including 2G, 3G and 4G networks) to increase nine-fold from 2011 to 2016.Mobile users want the best experiences they can have and that generally means mobile video, which will comprise 71 percent of all mobile data traffic by 2016.
The Cisco study also projects that 71 percent of all smartphones and tablets (1.6 billion) could be capable of connecting to an Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) mobile network by 2016. From a broader perspective, 39 percent of all global mobile devices (more than 4 billion), could be IPv6-capable by 2016.