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10X growth in mobile data by 2022 driven by video, smartphone

Growth in mobile video versus other data 2016 - 2022

Ericsson and Cisco agree, mobile data traffic consumption is exploding. Video will increasingly drive bandwidth, and all other mobile devices will fade away as the smartphone dominates.

Global mobile traffic to grow nearly 10X by 2022

Ericsson forecasts an almost 10-fold growth in mobile data traffic between 2016 and 2022. The company says mobile data was 8.8 Exabytes (EB) per month in 2016, and will grow to 71 EB/month in 2022. This is equivalent to an annual growth rate of 42%.

Cisco mobile VNI forecasts very similar growth. The company says global mobile data traffic was 7.2EB/month in 2016 and will grow to 49EB/month in 2021. This is equivalent to an annual growth rate of 46%.

North America and Western Europe make up a large proportion of the global total. Ericsson says North American mobile data will grow from 1.6EB a month in 2016 to 9.8EB in 2022. Western Europe mobile data consumption will increase from 1EB/month to 9.5EB/month over the same period.

Cisco’s North American and West European numbers are roughly in agreement with Ericsson forecasts. Cisco says North American mobile data will grow from 1.4EB a month in 2016 to 5.9EB in 2021. Western European mobile data consumption will increase from 0.7EB/month to 4EB/month over the same period.

Video continues to be the big story

Mobile traffic growth by application 2016 - 2022Ericsson says that video represented 50% of the mobile data load in 2016. It will become 75% of the load by 2022. Cisco says video traffic will be an even larger proportion. It says 78% of mobile data traffic worldwide will be video in 2021. Ericsson says the 50% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in video traffic through 2022 will dwarf the growth of any other application category. For example, social networking will grow at 38% CAGR and audio at 34%.

There are two key drives of the rapid expansion in the mobile video consumption over the next 5 years. The first is the growth in high speed network coverage throughout the world. For example, by 2022 Ericsson says 25% of mobile data subscriptions will be over 5G networks in North America, and virtually all other connections will be LTE. In the Middle East and Africa, where slow GSM/Edge mobile connections dominate today, by 2022 30% will be LTE or 5G and 50% WCDMA/HSPA. GSM/Edge will account for just 18% of connections in 2022.

The second key driver is the return of “unlimited” data plans. Though in reality unlimited plans are frequently capped at 20+GB/month at “high” speed, this is more than enough to start watching a lot more video on a mobile device.

Smartphone dominates

Data traffic per active smartphone 2016 - 2022The device that is leading the charge in the consumption of mobile data is the smartphone. The device will completely dominate the tablet and mobile PC by 2022. Ericsson says that 90% of mobile data traffic will come from smartphones. North American consumption will increase from an average of 5GB per month in 2016, to 25GB in 2022. Western Europe will see a similarly large increase, from 2GB/month to 21GB/month.

Why it matters

Cisco and Ericsson both forecast strong growth in mobile data consumption over the next 5 to 6 years.

The growth will be dominated by video, which will consume at least 70% of all mobile bandwidth by 2021 or 2022.

Smartphone usage will drive overall growth in mobile data and video usage.

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