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Wireless & Mobile Landscape

Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, 2012 – 2017: The Rise Continues

This report forecasts global mobile data traffic for the 2012 to 2017 period. iGR estimates that in 2012, approximately 889,000 terabytes of mobile data traffic flowed over the world’s cellular data network networks per month. By 2017, iGR forecasts mobile data traffic to rise to 10.3 million terabytes per month.

iGR’s mobile data traffic model estimates the amount of bandwidth (in MBs) consumed by a given activity – e.g., checking email, listening to streaming music or watching streaming video, checking social sites, etc. – on a per application/use basis and then expands that estimate up to a regional view (North America, etc.) This methodology necessarily means a reliance on average values for how much bandwidth these various activities consume along with an average for how many times in a given time period an end user engages in the given activity, how many connections there are in each market, etc. Inputs for the traffic model are based on iGR’s survey data.

To create the mobile data forecast, iGR built usage profiles based on data gathered in its primary and secondary consumer and enterprise research over the past several years. iGR divided connections into four different categories: light, medium, heavy and extreme. A connection corresponds to a device; the number of connections exceeds the number of subscribers. For example, a mobile worker in North America might have three devices – a smartphone, laptop and a tablet. A consumer might have two (a smartphone and a tablet) or a mix of non-smartphone, smartphone, tablet, laptop and/or mobile hotspot. If these devices connect to a mobile broadband network (MBB), then they are counted as a connection.

Generally speaking, the larger the device, the more bandwidth is consumed on it. That is, a laptop connection will likely generate far more traffic than a smartphone. This is for obvious reasons – the laptop is far more conducive to heavy usage than a smartphone and is typically used in a place where the user is stationary and disposed toward consuming/generating a great deal of data traffic. The processing power and screen resolution of a typical laptop also facilitates the consumption of higher resolution and thus higher megabyte value content.

That said, the advent of streaming video and audio applications (Pandora, Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Cloud Player, etc.), not to mention YouTube, makes consuming hundreds of megabytes on a smartphone quite easy. The key difference, of course, is that the laptop user could be multitasking among several different high-traffic applications whereas the smartphone user is typically only engaged in one, maybe two different activities. It should also be noted that many smartphones have excellent screens capable of displaying HD content. One of the drivers behind the “phablet” craze (smartphones with 5-inch or larger screens) is improved media consumption whether it is video, web or something else.

It should also be noted that seemingly minor changes in per day, week or month mobile data consumption can greatly impact average bandwidth consumption. For example, starting to watch a single streamed episode of a TV show per week on a smartphone could easily equate to an additional 350-500 MB of cellular data usage per month.

These bandwidth numbers and usage profiles were used as the baseline for the global mobile data traffic model and forecast.


Key Questions Answered

  • What consists of mobile data traffic?
  • What is mobile data usage like today?
  • How does mobile data usage change over the forecast period?
  • What are the drivers of mobile data traffic growth?
  • What are some differences in mobile data use by geographic region?

Who Should Read

  • Mobile operators
  • Mobile infrastructure OEMs
  • Device OEMs
  • Content providers and distributors
  • Financial and investment analysts.

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Executive Summary
  • Methodology
    • Key Data on Worldwide Connections
    • Setting the Context
    • Estimating per User Data Use
  • Mobile Data Traffic: Assumptions
    • User Categories
    • Increasing Mobile Device Penetration
    • Drivers of Mobile Data Demand
    • Mobile Data Traffic: Limiting Factors
    • Data Prices and Data Usage Caps
  • Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast
  • North America
  • Latin America
  • Europe
  • Asia Pacific
  • Japan
  • Africa and the Middle East
  • Definitions
    • General
    • Device Types
    • Services
    • Network Technology
    • Regions
  • About iGR
    • Disclaimer

List of Tables

  • Table 1: Mobile Data Traffic per Month per Connection, 2012
  • Table 2: North America Mobile Data Usage by Service & Connection Type, 2012
  • Table 3: Mobile data traffic per month per region, 2012-2017 (TB per month)
  • Table 4: Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Region, 2012-2017
  • Table 5: North America Connections per Usage Category
  • Table 6: North America Mobile Data Usage per Connection Type per Month (MB)
  • Table 7: Total North America Mobile Data Traffic per Category per Month (TB)
  • Table 8: Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category, NA
  • Table 9: Latin America Connections per Usage Category
  • Table 10: Latin America Mobile Data Usage per Connection per Month (MB)
  • Table 11: Latin America Mobile Data Traffic per Category per Month (TB)
  • Table 12: Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category, Latin America
  • Table 13: Connections per category, Europe
  • Table 14: European Average mobile data per connection per month (MB)
  • Table 15: European Total Mobile Data Usage per Category per Month (TB)
  • Table 16: European Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category
  • Table 17: Asia Pacific Connections per category
  • Table 18: Asia Pacific Mobile data per connection per month (MB)
  • Table 19: Asia-Pacific Total Mobile Data Usage per Category per Month (TB)
  • Table 20: Asia Pacific Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category
  • Table 21: Japanese Connections per category
  • Table 22: Japanese Mobile data per connection per month (MB)
  • Table 23: Japanese Total Mobile Data Usage per Category per Month (TB)
  • Table 24: Japanese Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category
  • Table 25: Africa & ME Connections per category
  • Table 26: Africa & ME Mobile data usage per user per month (MB)
  • Table 27: Africa & ME Total Mobile Data Usage per Category per Month (TB)
  • Table 28: Africa & ME Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category

List of Charts

  • Figure A: Global Mobile Data per Month (Petabytes), 2012-2017 (TB per month)
  • Figure 1: Mobile Data Traffic per Month per Connection, 2012
  • Figure 2: North America Mobile Data Usage by Service Type, 2012
  • Figure 3: Mobile data traffic per month per region, 2012-2017 (TB per month)
  • Figure 4: Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Region, 2012-2017
  • Figure 5: North America Connections per Usage Category
  • Figure 6: North America Mobile Data Usage per Connection Type per Month (MB)
  • Figure 7: Total North America Mobile Data Traffic per Category per Month
  • Figure 8: Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category, NA
  • Figure 9: Latin America Connections per Usage Category
  • Figure 10: Latin America Mobile Data Usage per Connection per Month (MB)
  • Figure 11: Latin America Mobile Data Traffic per Category per Month (TB)
  • Figure 12: Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category, Latin America
  • Figure 13: Connections per category, Europe
  • Figure 14: European Average mobile data per connection per month (MB)
  • Figure 15: European Total Mobile Data Usage per Category per Month (TB)
  • Figure 16: European Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category
  • Figure 17: Asia Pacific Connections per category
  • Figure 18: Asia Pacific Mobile data per connection per month (MB)
  • Figure 19: Asia-Pacific Total Mobile Data Usage per Category per Month (TB)
  • Figure 20: Asia Pacific Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category
  • Figure 21: Japanese Connections per category
  • Figure 22: Japanese Mobile data per connection per month (MB)
  • Figure 23: Japanese Total Mobile Data Usage per Category per Month (TB)
  • Figure 24: Japanese Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category
  • Figure 25: Africa & ME Connections per category
  • Figure 26: Africa & ME Mobile data usage per user per month (MB)
  • Figure 27: Africa & ME Total Mobile Data Usage per Category per Month (TB)
  • Figure 28: Africa & ME Changing Mobile Data Traffic by Category

For additional information on the Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, 2012 – 2017 market research report, please contact Iain Gillott at (512) 263-5682 or by email.

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