Even though 4G wireless technology overall share of cellular subscriptions stood at a meager 2.9 percent at the end of 2Q 2013, it is expected to account for slightly more than 20 percent of the total data consumed on mobile networks worldwide this year.
After surpassing 3G mobile networks in 2016, 4G mobile networks will go on to capture two-thirds of data traffic by 2018, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.
Moreover, 4G mobile data traffic will surge at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 82.2 percent between 2013 and 2018.
Underpinning this high-growth traffic trend is the aggressive LTE network deployment by wireless network operators and the expanding portfolio of smartphones and tablets which are also falling in price.
"These two factors work hand in hand to enable consumers to stream videos on their smartphones," said Ying Kang Tan, research associate at ABI Research.
Already, Verizon saw video accounting for 50 percent of its network traffic earlier this year. It's anticipated to be the beginning of a significant ongoing trend. ABI Research now believes global annual video consumption will soar at a CAGR of 60.6 percent -- to exceed 100 Exabytes in 2018.
Despite growing at the slowest rate, more traditional web browser traffic on the Internet will still contribute to 27 percent of the data traffic consumed.
The result is that the revenue generated from data traffic -- excluding that from SMS texting -- will increase at a CAGR of 7.9 percent between 2013 and 2018.
However, voice service revenue will still take up the bulk -- 52.7 percent -- of the global total in 2018. ABI believes that mobile network operators still need to improve their voice quality and not lose sight of this key application segment.