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Upside and Downside of the Mobile Internet Movement

Not that long ago, internet access via a mobile phone was considered a novelty. Today, as more mobile network operators continue to achieve breakthroughs in broadband upload and download speeds, the growth in total mobile data traffic is rising exponentially.

ABI Research now predicts that the average monthly data consumed per mobile service subscriber will increase from 445 megabytes in 2014 to 2,289 megabytes by 2019.

In early December 2014, Nokia Networks unveiled its carrier aggregation solution with Ooredoo and China Mobile which was capable of reaching 300 Mbps uplink and 3.8 Gbps downlink. Earlier on, ZTE demonstrated the world’s first 40 MHz LTE uplink carrier aggregation solution.

These breakthroughs and stability of upload and download throughput, once commercially deployed, will enable service subscribers to rely on their mobile devices as entertainment and productivity solutions, in addition to basic voice and data communication.

"Therefore, it is not surprising that applications such as Facebook, YouTube, BitTorrent, and Gmail constitute a major part of the mobile data upload traffic," said Lian Jye Su, research associate at ABI Research.

According to the latest ABI assessment of the market, they expect the global mobile data upload traffic to increase from 6,860 petabytes to over 60,000 petabytes by 2019.

Among all the regions, Africa and Latin America will experience the highest increase in mobile upload traffic -- although from a small user base, when compared to the more developed markets.

As for mobile data download traffic, real-time entertainment in the form of video and TV streaming remains the largest contributor. This trend is unlikely to change, unless everyday use is influenced by service provider pricing -- i.e. a shift to more usage-based plans, and fewer unlimited-data plans.

ABI says that they anticipate the percentage of mobile data download attributed to video and TV streaming by smartphone users to increase from 50 percent to more than 70 percent in 2019.

This change of consumer behavior has both positive and negative implications for mobile network operators. On the one hand, mobile service subscribers are increasingly dependent on mobile internet use to serve their daily entertainment and productivity needs.

On the other hand, this change has created an increased challenge for mobile service providers to cost-effectively invest more in new data network infrastructure, and further optimize their current networks -- because the average revenue per user (ARPU) is declining due to competition and other factors.

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