Cisco says that mobile data will be increasingly be dominated by mobile video through 2021, with live streaming growing to 5% of the video load. Will virtual and augmented reality be significant part of the load too?
Video drives mobile data
Cisco’s latest VNI forecast says that globally mobile data will grow from 7 Exabytes (EB) a month in 2016, to 49 EB/month in 2021.* That’s equivalent to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 47%. Impressive as that sounds, mobile video consumption will grow faster.
Cisco says 60% of mobile data (4 EB/month) in 2016 was video. In 2021, that share will have grown to 78%, or 38 EB/month. That is equivalent to 54% CAGR.
However, to keep some perspective on mobile usage, we should remember that most online video consumption will still occur on fixed networks. Cisco says in 2020, global Internet traffic will be 161 EB/month in 2021. 128 EB/month, or 79%, will video.
Mobile live traffic to grow exponentially
Live video is receiving extraordinary focus from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Twitter streamed NFL games live last season, and Facebook has been heavily promoting its live platform to users for some time. Today, YouTube rolled out live streaming support to all channel owners with more than 10,000 followers. It promises to open the functionality up to everyone soon.
Cisco clearly believes these efforts are going to be a big smash with consumers. It foresees huge growth in live mobile video over the next 5 years. In 2016, the company says that just 0.1 EB/month was consumed with live video. By 2020, traffic will increase 20 times, to 2 EB/month.
Virtual reality and augmented reality see strong growth
Virtually and augmented reality have received a huge amount of focus over the last several months. Intense interest from the entertainment industry, coupled with furious innovation from technologists is causing rapid innovation in the space. It is also relatively easy, and cheap, for consumers to experience the new technology. For example, all a viewer needed to get the VR Super Bowl experience was Google Cardboard and a recent Android phone.
What does all this mean for mobile VR and AR over the next 5 years? According to Cisco, it will result in strong growth, but the market will remain tiny compared to regular video. The company says that worldwide mobile VR traffic was 13.4 Petabytes (PB) per month in 2016.* By 2021, it will have grown over 100 times, to 141 PB/month. However, that will be nearly 300 times less the total mobile video traffic.
The augmented reality traffic will be much smaller than VR. Cisco says AR generated just 3 PB/month in 2016, and that this will grow to 20 in 2021. This does not necessarily mean the market will evolve more slowly than VR. AR streams only deliver images of the objects to be rendered, rather than the entire 360 degree image. That means the bandwidth required to deliver the experience is much less than VR.
Why it matters
Video continues to drive the growth in mobile data, and will dominate consumption by 2021
Efforts by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among others, will help make mobile live video a significant part of the mobile data load in 2021.
VR and AR will not be a significant part of the mobile data load over the next 5 years.
*An Exabyte is 1 million Terabytes, a Petabyte is 1 thousand Terabytes.