Tablets, Smartphones, Video to Catapult Mobile Data Traffic: Cisco

A new Cisco study forecasts a 26-fold increase in mobile data traffic by 2015, driven by smartphones, tablets and mobile video watching.

Worldwide mobile data traffic is expected to increase 26 times by 2015, driven primarily by smartphone and tablet use, as well as consumers' increasing interest in watching videos on mobile devices, Cisco Systems reported in a Feb. 1 study.

Traffic will reach 6.3 exabytes-the equivalent of 1 quintillion, or 10 to the 18th power-per month within the next four years, according to the study.The study-said to offer Cisco customers, such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless, information on trends in consumer mobile data use-additionally predicts that by 2015, 5.6 billion personal devices will be connected to mobile networks, along with 1.5 billion M2M (machine-to-machine) nodes, and that mobile video will account for 66 percent of all mobile data traffic. Such an increase in mobile video viewing would represent a 35-fold increase between 2010 and 2015-the highest-ever growth rate of any mobile data application that Cisco tracked."The fact that global mobile data traffic increased 2.6-fold from 2009 to 2010, nearly tripling for the third year in a row, confirms the strength of the mobile Internet," Suraj Shetty, Cisco's vice president of worldwide service provider marketing, said in a statement. "The seemingly endless bevy of new mobile devices, combined with greater mobile broadband access, more content, and applications of all types-especially video -are the key catalysts driving this remarkable growth."The study also expects that by 2015, there will be nearly as many mobile connected devices as people on the planet-that's 7.2 billion, by the United Nations' estimate-and that by that date, the traffic generated by the average mobile device per month will be 17 times higher than it is today.The current growing media tablet trend, which isn't expected to abate anytime soon, is also expected to make quite a mark. In 2015, said the study, tablets alone will likley generate more traffic (248 petabytes per month, to be exact) than the entire global mobile network did in 2010 (that's 237 petabytes per month). The same goes for machine-to-machine traffic.AT&T, making aggressive in-roads in the M2M space, has seemingly taken Cisco's advice. Research firm Technology Business Research has forecast that by 2015, the number of global M2M connections-made by potentially everything from water spigots to water heaters to parking meters-will exceed wireless voice connections. That forecast, TBR analyst Ken Hyers has told eWEEK, is validated by the expansion of AT&T and other operators into the space. Much of the M2M growth, Hyers added, "will come from enterprises, which are using M2M and related applications to automate their services and increase efficiencies." The carriers' mobile connection speeds are key factors in supporting mobile data traffic growth, reported Cisco, projecting the increased speeds of average devices. The average smartphone connection speed, for example, was 613 kbps in 2009, but 1,443 kpbs in 2011 and headed to 1,953 kbps in 2012. In 2014, that's expected to leap to 3,424 kbps, and on to 4,404 kbps in 2015.The nation's four largest networks are all building out their networks to keep up customers' increased needs for speed. Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless now all offer 4G networks, which AT&T also has in the works and will begin rolling out this year. T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray, at a January presentation in New York, said that as part of efforts to attract new customers, the T-Mobile network will soon get even faster, climbing later this year to 42M bps, from the more expected 4G rate of 21M bps.