Cisco: Global mobile data traffic to grow 10X by 2019, 72% will be video

Cisco this week released an update to its Visual Networking Index, with a look back at full-year mobile metrics and a forecast through 2019.

The report showed the power – or drain – of an increasingly mobile-centric population around the globe, noting that the number of connected device exceeded the world’s population in 2014, and that smartphones are likely to generate 75% of mobile data traffic by 2019… an increasing amount of it video.

By 2019, Cisco forecast, global mobile data traffic is expected to grow nearly tenfold with a CAGR of 57% from 2014 to 2019. Nearly three-quarters of that traffic – 72% — is expected to be video.

Cisco said mobile data traffic increased 69% in 2014, to 2.5 exabytes per month, compared to 1.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2013.

A major driver of the growth was – no surprise here if you’ve been following Ooyala’s Global Video Index – mobile video traffic. Cisco said mobile video traffic made up 55% of all mobile data traffic in 2014, up from 50% in 2012.

Smartphone usage continued to soar, said Cisco, up 45% in 2014, with the average amount of traffic per smartphone topping 819 MB per month, up from 563 MB per month in 2013. And, while smartphones made up less than 30% of all handsets in use globally, the represented 69% of total global handset traffic, generating 37 times more mobile data traffic than the typical basic-feature cell phone.

Which begs the question, how did wireless networks cope with the additional traffic?

Cisco said connection speeds increased 20% during the year with the average mobile network downstream speed at1,683 kilobits per second (kbps), up from 1,387 kbps in 2013.

And, WiFi continues to play an expanding role in mobility. Nearly half (46%) of total mobile data traffic was offloaded onto the fixed network through WiFi or femtocell in 2014, Cisco said. Without offload, mobile data traffic would have grown 84% rather than 69% for the year.

Users of iOS device s also use more – but barely – data than Adndroid users with average iOS consumption exceeded average Android consumption in North America and Western Europe.

Use of tablets as connected mobile devices also is growing with the number of mobile-connected tablets nearly doubling to 74 million in 2014. And, they tend to be more data hungry than the average smartphone, generating 2.5 times more traffic, about 2,076 MB per month, compared to 819 MB per month per smartphone.

Laptops – of which there were 189 million on the mobile network — generated 3.2 times more traffic than the average smartphone, about 2.6 GB per month.

Looking down the road, Cisco said it expects monthly global mobile data traffic to surpass 24.3 exabytes by 2019 moving across a network that provides an average global mobile connection speed surpassing 2 Mbps by 2016.

Tablets, too, will see a surge, with monthly mobile tablet traffic surpassing 2.0 exabytes per month by 2018 and making up more than 10% global mobile data traffic by 2016.

The largest growth of traffic is expected to come from the Middle East and Africa, which will see a CAGR of 72%, followed by Central and Eastern Europe at 71% and Latin America at 59%.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn