Mobile Data Network Traffic Moving to WiFi, Femtocells: Juniper Report

Though WiFi accounts for more than 98 percent of the traffic offloaded, femtocells will increasingly share the burden.

A report released from Juniper Research has found that the majority of traffic (63 percent) generated by smartphones, tablets and feature phones will transfer onto the fixed network via WiFi and femtocells by 2015, which means that the annual mobile data traffic offloaded from operators' networks via WiFi and femtocells is forecast to reach nearly 9,000 petabytes by 2015-equal to a voluminous 11 billion movie downloads.

Juniper Research found that the percentage of traffic offloaded in developed markets will actually diminish toward the end of the forecast period, and will begin to plateau in several other regions due to the accelerating take-up of LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks. Despite this, however, the volume of data traffic offloaded from mobile networks will continue to grow strongly throughout the next five years as the total volume of data traffic delivered to mobile devices accelerates.

Although currently WiFi accounts for more than 98 percent of the traffic offloaded, femtocells will account for a steadily increasing proportion over the forecast period, the report noted, with the highest penetration of femtocells for data offload occurring in North America. Mobile data offloaded via WiFi from operators' networks is expected to reach almost 90 percent of total data offloaded. Total mobile data traffic generated by smartphones, feature phones and tablets are expected to exceed 14,000 PB by 2015, the report projected.

The report also recommended that operators view offloading solutions as being complementary to their 3G/4G network investments, providing opportunities to seize market share and revenues from fixed line operators, extending their reach beyond mobile and making their 3G/4G business case profitable.

"As a high percentage of mobile data consumption occurs while indoors or in motion, operators have an opportunity to offload data traffic onto complementary fixed networks via WiFi and femtocells," said Mobile Data Offload & Onload report author Nitin Bhas. "Offloading also has the potential for creating new services and applications and enhancing the usage of existing services."

A February study conducted by Cisco found 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. The study additionally predicted 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. 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.