According to the latest market study by Informa Telecoms & Media, in 2016 mobile phone users will (on average) consume 6.5 times as much video, over eight times as much music or social media, and nearly 10 times as many games as in 2011.
There will be a big upsurge in traffic for most mobile data services over the next five years, largely driven by the spread of smartphones and a 23 percent increase in the number of mobile users.
In 2016, the average mobile user will be browsing six times as many web pages and downloading 14 times as many megabytes of applications on their handset as in 2011.
Text (SMS) and picture (MMS) messaging traffic will continue to grow, but at a much slower pace than most other mobile data services. On average, mobile users sent 118 SMSes and two MMSes a month in 2011, compared to the 146 SMSes and four MMSes they will be sending in 2016.
Usage of Internet-derived messaging services, namely instant messaging and e-mail, will see higher growth. For example, compared to the global monthly average of 31 mobile instant messages sent in 2011, users will be sending 118 in 2016.
That being said, according to the study findings, the services that put the greatest strain on mobile networks won't necessarily be the ones that deliver the most revenue.
"The top three data guzzlers on mobile phones over the next five years will be applications, video streaming and web browsing – in that order of importance," says Guillermo Escofet, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.
Yet, the top revenue earners in 2016 will be web browsing first, followed by P2P SMS and applications. Video streaming will likely represent less than 1 percent of mobile data revenue in 2016, despite consuming a third of the typical handset traffic.
The growth in traffic will far outstrip the growth in revenues. Global mobile data traffic will grow from 3.89 trillion megabytes in 2011 to 39.75 trillion megabytes in 2016, amounting to a tenfold increase.
By contrast, global mobile data revenues will grow from $325.8 billion in 2011 to $627.5 billion in 2016, amounting to a twofold increase. And although the revenue pie will grow, the slice kept by mobile operators will shrink.
Excluding data and SMS/MMS -- over whose sale operators have a monopoly -- the percentage for operators of what users pay for all other data services, anything from downloading a song to making purchases via a mobile wallet, will drop from 56 percent in 2011 to 41 percent in 2016.