It's now forecast that annual cellular data traffic -- generated by smartphones, media tablets, connected cars, and other M2M modules -- will reach 129,000 Petabytes (PB) by 2018 -- that's equivalent to approximately 14 billion hours of 4K ultra high-definition video streaming.
Mobile Data Market Development
According to the latest worldwide market study by Juniper Research, as 4K video content becomes more widely available, the average data usage will increase leading to almost threefold rise in cellular network traffic to exceed 318,000 PB by 2021.
This will put a significant pressure on mobile network providers who will see greater usage. Meanwhile, the monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) continues to decline, due to increased competition.
Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Highlights
- Global average smartphone cellular data usage will reach 5GB per month by 2021, that's up from 2GB in 2017.
- Global average tablet cellular data usage will exceed 3.3GB per month by 2021, up from 1.5GB in 2017.
- Video will account for 60 percent of global mobile data traffic in 2017, before approaching 80 percent by 2021.
- Traffic generated by cellular connected M2M systems will approach 6,000PB by 2021, dominated by the automotive sector.
- Cellular-connected fixed devices including notebooks and eReaders will generate 20 percent of total traffic to the mobile networks in 2017.
- Data traffic generated by smartphone, media tablets and feature phones will grow fourfold between 2017 and 2021 to reach 774,000PB; that's equivalent to 81 billion hours of 4K streaming.
Demand for Wi-Fi Offload Continues
The use of Wi-Fi technology by mobile operators for data offload has boosted the build-out of Wi-Fi hotspots in recent years. Juniper predicts that this will lead to over 60 percent of global mobile data traffic being offloaded via Wi-Fi networks in 2017.
However, the research findings also warned that a high QoE (quality of experience) while offloading data users will be essential for future network monetization strategies.
"Operators need to support a user-experience comparable to that of cellular. While progress has been made in refining hand-offs between cellular and Wi-Fi, there is still room for improvement by implementing better network management and planning tools, said Nitin Bhas, head of research at Juniper Research.