By 2014, annual global mobile data traffic will reach 3.6 exabytes per month. Globally, businesses and consumers will be transferring the equivalent of billions of DVDs each month. What’s driving that incredible growth? What does it mean to service providers? Are users worldwide becoming mobile data megalomaniacs? Read on to find out.
Before I get into details, I’d just like to point out that a lot of this data comes from the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Forecast. A great summary of Cisco VNI research is here, along with a helpful mobile data forecast whitepaper, can be found here.
Video is, well, huge, and getting ginormous
So, what’s going on? Let’s take a look at a key driver of the pending data deluge: Video.
Video is becoming more social and, as a result, getting more use. But, more importantly, it is easier to discover and access than ever. Not just to users with high-speed Internet access, but specifically to users in developing nations without computers but smartphones instead. Not only is the smartphone business booming – as much as a 20.9 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) percent in the years leading up to 2013 (according to a report, “Worldwide Mobile OS 2009-2013 Forecast and Analysis”, by IDC), but consider that, in 2009, one smartphone generated the data equivalent of at least 10 basic phones. By 2014, one smartphone will generate the equivalent of more than 100 basic phones.
Beyond mobile, consider traffic generated in machine-to-machine communications (M2M). How much data will the fridge (and other appliances) of 2014 process and deliver wirelessly? What about asset tracking systems in shipping and manufacturing sectors, medical patient record storage and retrieval, and so on? The latest Cisco VNI figures predict that, by 2014, there will be five billion mobile consumer devices in use and billions more M2M nodes in all sorts of consumer and business/enterprise applications.
Another factor is our changing lifestyle
It wasn’t too long ago that humans would just go to sleep when the sun went down. With the advent of television, a few of us decided to stay up late watching Johnny Carson or Conan O’brien. But now, with the Internet becoming the dominant medium for consuming everything other than your meals – and its ubiquity, and its ease-of-access, humans are changing the way they behave. Research into the habits of information workers indicates that multitasking will add six “network hours” to every day.
Instead of just watching TV, people will browse the Web to learn about a new product they just saw. While paying bills they will watch videos on demand – hopefully educational information helping them to balance their budget, instead of just a cute kitten video. Even while watching a video, users will keep an eye on their RSS feeds to keep abreast of the latest trends…and latest popular videos.
All of this extra network time is compounding the strain service providers will be under in the coming years.
Around the world
Let’s take a deep breath now and ask ourselves: Is my network capable of handling all of that? Is my mobile infrastructure going to crumble under the weight of quintillions of packets? Let’s look at how the various regions of the world will fare in the coming storm. For maximum effect, read the next section in the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator. For the forecast period 2009 to 2014:
- The Middle East and Africa are expected to lead the world with the fastest mobile data growth rate (for regions) at a CAGR of 133% percent. The regional will be followed closely by Asia-Pacific, with a 119% CAGR, followed by North America with a 117% CAGR.
- Western Europe will account for nearly 1/3 (30%) of all mobile data traffic by 2014. Asia-Pac will contribute 26% and North America will contribute 22% of global mobile traffic by 2014.
- India will blow the rest of the world away with the highest mobile traffic growth rate of 222% CAGR. China will trail with 72% CAGR and South Africa will have a 156% CAGR.
What’s a service provider to do?
Run, hide? Build a fortified compound and wait out the storm? Those are valid courses of action, certainly. There are a multitude of answers available. I’d love to know how you plan to cope, though – what’s your strategy? I’d love to have you sound off in the comments. We’re also talking about this (and other topics) in our community forum on a regular basis, and I’d like to invite you all to join us there sometime, too.