AP to lead mobile data traffic tsunami: Cisco VNI

By Tony Chan

The Asia Pacific generated some 37.2 exabytes of mobile traffic in 2016, more than the next three most mobile intensive regions – North America (16.9EB), Central and Eastern Europe (11.1EB) and Western Europe (8.8EB) – combined, according to the latest data from Cisco’s mobile visual networking index.

For 2016, the Asia Pacific accounted for some 43% of global mobile traffic, which came in at 86.8EB in total.  According to Cisco’s report, Asia Pacific will accelerate its share of global mobile traffic in the coming five years. The region is expected to generate some 274.2EB, or 46.7% of the world’s mobile internet traffic, by 2021.

Over the period, Asia Pacific will post the second fastest mobile traffic growth (7x), behind only MEA (12x), which will become the second most voluminous region in the world at 88.4EB per annum. During the duration, Latin America and Europe are projected to grow 6-fold while North America can expect a 5-fold increase in mobile data traffic per year.

Despite generating the most mobile traffic as a region, Asia Pacific will continue to lag behind North America and Europe in terms of penetration, speed and per device traffic, Cisco said.  On a per device basis, Asia Pacific can expect to see 5.2GB of traffic per device per month, compared to 12.7GB/month for North America and 6.6GB and 8.1GB per month for Western Europe and CEE respectively, the report said. Globally, the market can expect a 42% surge in mobile data traffic per device per month between 2016 and 2021, from 977MB/month to 5.7GB/month.

By 2021, there will be 1.4 mobile devices per capita across Asia Pacific, far behind North America (2.9), Western Europe (2.7) and CEE (1.8), according to Cisco estimates.  In terms of speed, Western Europe is charted to lead in 2021 with a projected average data speed of 28.5Mbps, followed by North America (25.2Mbps) and Asia Pacific (20.4Mbps).

Globally, the researchers assumed mobile data speeds would reach an average of 20.4Mbps in five years’ time, more than triple the 6.8Mbps last year.  The increase in network speed is one of the drivers Cisco cited for the increase in global mobile data traffic, along with the growth in both mobile users and connections and continual adoption of mobile video.

Users and connections

By 2021, the researchers forecast 5.5 billion mobile users and 12 billion mobile connections, up from 4.9 billion users and 8 billion connections in 2016. At the same time, mobile video’s share of overall traffic is expected to surge to 78% in 2021, up from 60%. These drivers will propel global mobile data traffic to a 7-fold increase over the period, according to Cisco.

Somewhat surprisingly, despite its emphasis on the potential growth of machine-tomachine devices and connections, Cisco expects humans to account for the majority of users and connections on mobile networks.

According to the research smartphones, including phablets, will still account for more than 50% of the total number of mobile connected devices by 2021, or 6.2 billion out of nearly 12 billion devices including M2M modules.

Meanwhile, the number of M2M connections in 2021 will represent 29%, or 3.3 billion connections of the overall mobile connection pool, up from 5% and 780m connections in 2016, Cisco said. 4G: During that time, 4G will continue its market share climb, and is expected to represent 58% of all mobile connections by 2021 – up from 26% last year. In five years, 4G connections are expected to generate 79% of all mobile data traffic, Cisco estimated.

As part of the latest report, the researchers also highlighted several emerging applications that are expected to impact global mobile data usage, namely virtual and augmented reality and wearables.  In the next five years, Cisco expects the number of VR devices to grow 5x to 100 million, generating 140 petabytes per month of network traffic per month by 2021 – a 11x growth from 13.3 PB/month in 2016.

During the same period, AR traffic is projected to grow 7x, from 3 PB/month to 21 PB/month.   Meanwhile, the number of wearables will approach 1 billion (929 million) by 2021, nearly tripling from 325 million last year.


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