Mobile phone traffic to grow tenfold by 2019, says Cisco

5.2bn people to be mobile phone users by 2019, says data networking company

If everybody has a smartphone, maybe we’ll soon just start calling them phones.

Cisco Systems has published its annual multiyear forecast for global mobile data traffic. This one, covering the years 2014-2019, has what has become the usual projection of tenfold growth in mobile traffic over the period – in this case, to 24.3 exabytes a month. An exabyte is a billion gigabytes.

Digging into the numbers, a few significant factors are seen as the causes for that sustained growth.

For one, by 2019, 69 per cent of the world’s population, or 5.2 billion people, are expected to be mobile users. Among that number there will be 4.6 billion smartphones, compared with 3.1 billion feature phones. Clearly, many people will own more than one phone. The study also covered connected devices like tablets and wifi-enabled laptops, which Cisco said were likely to regain share from tablets.


The growth in smartphones is interesting not just because they will be the majority type of phone sometime around 2018; smart devices tend to use more data, so that 97 per cent of overall global traffic will be from smart devices. Video is expected to be a particularly big bandwidth hog: 72 per cent of mobile traffic will be video, Cisco said.

Another important development is the amount and type of traffic that will be offloaded from conventional cellular systems to wifi and small-cell networks.

Cisco said 54 per cent of mobile data traffic will be on these systems, which keep carriers from congestion, but also keep them from realising some profits, since they can’t charge for wifi connections the same way.

"We see 24.3 exabytes a month on global cellular in 2019, but 29 exabytes a month on wifi," said Thomas Barnett jnr, the Cisco employee who led the study.

“By 2018 the number of minutes of voice over wifi systems could surpass LTE,” or the traditional digital voice traffic for which carriers charge, he said.

Wide-area connections

Another big change Mr. Barnett saw was the number and type of connections between machines. Right now, he said, low-power, wide-area connections, such as device monitoring in a hospital or asset tracking in a factory, amount to a tenth of 1 per cent of total mobile connections. Cisco thinks that could rise by 80 fold in five years, to 8 per cent of the 11.5 billion device connections to mobile networks.

“There could be regulatory issues and new business models because of this,” he said. “Carriers may have to charge a flat fee for connecting those” instead of the traditional method of metering devices.

Not surprisingly, global network speeds are also projected to increase, if only in an effort to keep up with the consumption. Cisco said by 2019 average mobile connections speeds will be about 4 megabits a second, up from about 1.7 megabits a second in 2014.

Some new devices, such as wearable technology with video cameras, could put pressure even on that increased speed.

Mr Burnett noted that while Google Glass is "dead", other wearables such as the GoPro camera are increasing in popularity. These typically use about five megabits a second when connected, he noted. New York Times service