Annual cellular data traffic, generated by smartphones, tablets, connected cars, and other M2M modules, will reach 129,000 PB (Petabytes) by 2018, equivalent to approximately 14 billion hours of 4K video streaming.

The figures are contained in a new report from Juniper.

The new research, called Mobile Data Offload & Onload: Wi-Fi, Small Cell & Network Strategies 2016-2021, found that as 4K content becomes both more widely available and adopted by consumers, the average data usage will increase leading to almost threefold rise in cellular traffic to exceed 318,000PB by 2021.

The authors say this will put pressure on network providers who will see greater usage; indeed Sprint recently collaborated with Ericsson to trial 4K content delivery over 5G networks.

Mobile Data Traffic Highlights: 2017- 2021

  • Global average smartphone cellular data usage will reach 5GB per month by 2021, up from 2GB in 2017.
  • Global average tablet cellular data usage to exceed 3.3GB per month by 2021, up from 1.5GB in 2017.
  • Video to account for 60% of global mobile data traffic in 2017, before approaching 80% by 2021
  • Traffic generated by cellular connected M2M systems will approach 6,000PB by 2021, dominated by the automotive sector.
  • Cellular-connected fixed devices including notebooks and eReaders will onload 20% of total traffic to mobile networks in 2017.
  • Data traffic generated by smartphone, tablets and featurephones will grow fourfold between 2017 and 2021 to reach 774,000PB, equivalent to 81 billion hours of 4K streaming.

The use of Wi-Fi by operators for data offload has boosted the build-out of Wi-Fi hotspots in recent years. Juniper predicts that this will lead to over 60% of global mobile data traffic being offloaded via Wi-Fi networks in 2017.

However, the research warned that a high QoE (quality of experience) while offloading data users will be essential for future network monetisation strategies.

According to Report author Nitin Bhas: “Operators need to support a user-experience comparable to that of cellular. Whilst progress has been made in, for example, refining handoffs between cellular and Wi-Fi, there is still room for improvement by implementing better network management and planning tools”.


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