Traffic offloading helps in moving mobile data from one network to another, by using complementary wireless network technologies -- such as Wi-Fi hotspots -- for the delivery of data via cellular networks.
Offloading enables mobile network operators to reduce the congestion in their cellular networks, while for the end-user it provides cost savings on data services and higher bandwidth availability.
Wi-Fi networks are forecast to carry almost 60 percent of smartphone and media tablet data traffic by 2019, reaching over 115,000PB (Petabytes) by 2019 -- that's compared to under 30,000PB in 2015, representing almost a four-fold increase.
According to the latest worldwide market study by Juniper Research, mobile data offload -- i.e. traffic migration from a mobile cellular network to a Wi-Fi network -- offers several key benefits to industry stakeholders.
Offload not only addresses the issue of patchy cellular wireless coverage, but also has the potential for the creation of new services such as voice over Wi-Fi, and to increase the usage of existing 3G or 4G services.
However, the research cautioned that Wi-Fi offload brings challenges to mobile network operators of effective deployment and return on investment.
"Operators need to deploy their own Wi-Fi zones in problematic areas or partner with Wi-Fi hotspot operators and established aggregators such as iPass and Boingo," said Nitin Bhas, head of research at Juniper Research.
Additionally, operators are also converting residential customers to community hotspot providers, especially in the U.S. market. According to Wi-Fi service provider iPass, there were nearly 40 million community hotspots in 2014 and expects this to more than double this year to nearly 90 million.
Other global mobile data traffic highlights include:
- Global mobile data traffic generated from devices including smartphones, feature phones and media tablets is forecast to exceed 197,000PB in 2019.
- Juniper estimates global smartphone data consumption to be nearly twice the amount of tablet traffic in 2015.
- Developing markets such as the Indian Subcontinent are forecast to witness higher growth rates and increased market share of the total mobile data traffic over the next 5 years; with operators in India already witnessing close to 100 percent y-o-y growth in data usage.
- North America and West Europe will together account for over 50 percent of the global mobile data being offloaded in 2019.