Think mobile data demand is big today, with 94 million smartphone shipped this year and 5 billion mobile subscribers? Well, Cisco ( s csco) says it’s going to get a lot bigger by 2015, with worldwide mobile data traffic set to increase 26-fold between 2010 and 2015, reaching 6.3 exabytes per month. That’s 75 exabytes annually by 2015 [MIGHT WANT TO THROW IN AND/OR LINK TO A DEFINITION OF EXABYTE]. Last year, I called it the mobilpocalypse, but this year, I’m going to say it’s a looming tsunami, driven by everyone’s favorite bandwidth hog, web video, and the proliferation of mobile devices. In short, we can blame this wave on Netflix on the iPad.
Cisco anticipates that in 2015, the average mobile user will consume 1,118 megabytes of traffic per month. For perspective, today the average mobile connection generates 65 megabytes of traffic per month, equivalent to about 15 MP3 music files. While the average growth is impressive, those megabytes will be spread across a wider number of devices, from tablets (big bandwidth hogs) to e-readers, which consume much less bandwidth, making it all the more significant. The Cisco study predicts that by 2015, more than 5.6 billion personal devices will be connected to mobile networks, and there will also be 1.5 billion machine-to-machine nodes — nearly the equivalent of one mobile connection for every person in the world. Cisco doesn’t give the current number of connections, but the GSM Association puts it at about 5 billion.
Cisco anticipates that mobile network-connected tablets will generate 248 petabytes per month in 2015 while machine-to-machine (M2M) traffic will reach 295 petabytes per month in 2015. The numbers are interesting because they are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to data demand and profitability. Consumer video is in high demand thanks to devices such as tablets, but it’s also something operators are watching because they are worried it will clog their networks while not bringing higher margins. Meanwhile, much of the M2M connectivity will be small amounts of traffic, but extremely profitable.
The question operators must answer is how soon these dynamics will reach some sort of equilibrium, or perhaps, if those dynamics will reach an equilibrium. Cisco notes in a presentation that, “in 2010, global mobile data traffic experienced a 2.6 times growth for the third year in a row, despite a slow economic recovery, increased traffic offload, and the advent of tiered pricing.”
Operators are trying to cut back on data use, whether because their networks are overwhelmed or simply because they want to keep their nice margins on wireless data. However, that growth is still coming, and operators are undoubtedly trying to shape their customer base to ensure that a consumer-heavy subscriber portfolio doesn’t drag down their bottom line. So tiered pricing, pricing that ignores the reality of consuming more data at faster speeds, and possibly limits on what one can download in cheaper plans are all likely to make an appearance.
Crazy Stats (and one Chart) to Beef Up Your Mobile Broadband Reports
Related GigaOM Pro content:
- Mobile Broadband: Pricing for Profits
- Metered Mobile Data Is Coming and Here’s How
- Everybody Hertz: The Looming Spectrum Crisis