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Mobile Data Traffic, the Volume Has Just Begun: Report

February 09, 2010

AT&T has been under fire as of late due to the rash of network problems the company quickly blames on increased data activity from such devices as the Apple iPhone. According to a recent survey from Cisco Systems, the amount of data traffic currently moving through carrier networks is just the beginning of things to come.

CNET’s Marguerite Reardon reported today that Cisco has announced the results of its Global Mobile Data Forecast for 2009 to 2014. The network equipment giant predicts that over the next four years, mobile data traffic throughout the world will reach 3.6 exabytes per month by 2014.

At this rate, the annual usage will hit 40 exabytes – a 39 fold increase from 2009, equating to an annual growth rate of 108 percent. To put this into terms the average user can relate to, the amount of data traffic moving throughout the mobile network by 2014 will equal roughly 1 billion DVDs – which is 133 times all the data that has ever been transmitted across a mobile network since they were first launched in 1980s. Wow.

Consider this – the average mobile broadband connection generates 1.3GB of traffic every month. By 2014, this traffic will grow to 7GB every month. The rate of data traffic growth is roughly 2.4 times faster than fixed broadband data traffic throughout the world.

So, where is all this growth coming from? Consumers are of course driving some of this growth as they continue to demand devices that offer mobile data capabilities. The iPhone is certainly responsible for the acceleration for the growth trends, but will not sustain it alone. Expect to see a rash of growth spurred by devices supported by Google’s Android operating system.

According to Cisco researchers, there will be more than 5 billion personal devices connecting to mobile networks by 2014. There will also be billions of machine-to-machine devices also connecting to these networks.

Doug Webster, senior director of service provider marketing for Cisco, said in the CNET report, “The rapid consumer adoption of smart phones, Netbooks, e-readers and Web-ready video cameras as well as machine-to-machine applications like e-health monitoring and asset tracking systems, are continuing to place unprecedented demands on mobile networks.”

Let’s not forget the impact of mobile video. This report suggests that such traffic will represent 66 percent of all mobile data traffic by 2014, increasing 66 fold from 2009. This growth is the highest rate of any mobile data application tracked in the Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Forecast, the company said.

Then there are the problems that better technology and reach can create.
“LTE and 4G wireless could exacerbate the problem and consumption may increase,” Webster said. “The places where these networks will be launched first will be in areas where there is high demand for the service. It will be interesting to see what the monetization opportunities are with these new services.”

In other Cisco news, the company announced a next-generation mobile end-to-end IP architecture and expanded its ASR Series portfolio with the introduction of the Cisco ASR 5000, which involves technology the company acquired through the Starent deal.

To get the latest insight on the Cisco outlook, check out unified communications’s David Sims’ recap of an interview between Forbes and Cisco’s new CTO. You can also check out the Cisco unified communications blog here.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for unified communications and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Kelly McGuire

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