In 2011, the world’s annual data traffic volume will total almost 8,000 petabytes, according to ABI Research. That will grow at a CAGR of 50 per cent over the following years, exceeding 60,000 petabytes in 2016 – over seven times more than in 2011. The year-on-year growth will be the fastest in 2012 (58 per cent) and 2013 (56 per cent), slightly slowing down thereafter.
ABI Research says that although currently, the web and Internet traffic category is the largest source of traffic, one of the main reasons for the future robust growth is the increasing amount of video traffic. “There are basically two types of video use cases that drive heavy traffic,” explains practice director Neil Strother. “Clips from YouTube (and similar sites) that are often shared via other social media, as well as lengthier content like series and even films (e.g. Netflix). Video and TV streaming should surpass web and Internet traffic in 2015.”
The bigger its screen, the more entertainment the device typically delivers: laptops, media tablets and other devices larger than handsets mimic patterns seen in wired broadband usage, especially when it comes to video, says ABI Research. Accordingly, the increasing uptake of such products is another major driver. As a result, the traffic generated by devices other than handsets will grow from about 65 per cent of the total in 2011 to over three-quarters in 2016.
To enable operators make the most of this rapidly-changing market, senior analyst Aapo Markkanen points out that pricing and data policy are relatively inexpensive ways for operators to differentiate their offerings and ease network congestion, if compared to investments in infrastructure. “Operators should better align the pricing and the allowance of data plans with usage patterns. It is an area with a lot of scope for innovation,” he advises.