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Global mobile data traffic to surpass 15 exabytes per month by 2018

J.D. Sartain | March 28, 2014
A recent report from Cisco predicts that global mobile data traffic, which hit 1.5 exabytes per month in 2013, will be 10 times as high by the end of 2018. Smartphones will drive the bulk of this traffic growth, but the Internet of Things will also play a role.

Transitioning Trends: Faster Networks, M2M Connections
Change in devices, as well as the different options consumers and business users have for devices, will challenge IT managers and CIOs in terms of access, authentication and authorization to use VPN services and content.

"As we look forward, the mobile device mix will get smarter and continue to drive the majority of mobile data traffic," Barnett says, adding that networks are increasingly making the transition to 4G and that M2M connections are joining personal devices on these more robust networks. (Cisco expects 4G traffic to make up more than half of total mobile traffic by 2018.)

M2M devices matter because they enable awareness, Forrester analyst Michele Pelino says. These devices, which range from RFID tags to GPS chips to sensors of all types, "capture information that helps businesses implement solutions to improve operations." This helps CIOs implement "smart computing solutions," she says, which in turn improves decision making and optimizes operational processes.

Meanwhile, Pelino adds, various types of networks - including wired lines, cellular wireless, licensed radio networks and satellite - will enable more Internet of Things solutions. Many telecom service providers have deployed IP networks at a national and international level; combined with ubiquitous availability of 3G wireless networks in mature markets, IoT solution deployment is possible, she says.

Each network type offers unique characteristics related to security issues, installation costs, and reliability, Pelino says. For example, wireless LAN and Zigbee solutions are ideal for supply chain applications, while wide-area-wireless network solutions are better suited for supporting real-time fleet management and monitoring mobile assets, including ship containers and railroad cars. (For its part, Cisco expects more traffic to be offloaded onto Wi-Fi networks than to remain on cellular networks by 2018.)

Nguyen says the underlying question centers on cellular technology upgrading trends. "Operators will continue to look for the most efficient networks to migrate subscribers to. The obvious answer seems to be 'go with the most recent,' but this really depends on a number of factors, including costs, demand, and spectrum availability."

In mature markets such as North America, Nguyen says, there's an aggressive move toward long-term evolution (LTE) networks, partly because this market has gradually transitioned through each generation of tech. Subscriber spend-and-usage patterns have encouraged operators to continue building next-generation infrastructure, and the spectrum has been made available.

In emerging markets such as Latin America, though, some 3G networks are still relatively new; the cost to upgrade to 4G, at least on a widespread basis, is not yet justifiable. In addition, many Latin America countries either have limited spectrum availability, with rules in place restricting incumbent bidding), or haven't been as aggressive with 4G auctions. In these markets, Nguyen says, 3G will continue to be the focus and emphasis despite the efficiencies that 4G has and promises to bring with future releases.


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