Advanced Television

Research: 33x mobile traffic growth predicted

May 13, 2011

By Colin Mann

The UMTS Forum has predicted that voice and data traffic on mobile networks will grow more than 30-fold during the decade ahead.

In a new report – Mobile traffic forecasts 2010-2020 – the 3G/4G industry body indicates that total annual traffic on mobile networks globally will reach 127 EB (Exabytes) in 2020. This represents a 33x increase compared with the 2010 figure.

The report – produced for the UMTS Forum by European analysis and consulting firm IDATE – also predicts that growth will be stronger still in Europe. During the same period, the UMTS Forum estimates that mobile traffic in a typical Western European country will grow by 67x from 186 TB to 12,540 TB daily – double the corresponding growth globally.

In contrast with this explosive growth in data traffic during the decade, the study predicts that mobile voice traffic growth will remain limited during the same period.

Key trends and drivers identified during the study period include:

– Continuing growth in tablets, dongles, smartphones, M2M and other connected devices.

– Media rich social networking is increasingly crucial for mobile users, generating significant traffic and new consumption patterns.

– Video has grown in importance to become the dominant source of data traffic via streaming and downloads. Consumption of TV content is also generating increasingly significant data traffic on mobile networks.

– Small cells and femtocells are becoming the solutions of choice to avoid network congestion.

The figures represent a total of uplink and downlink voice and data traffic transported on mobile networks using licensed spectrum. While traffic managed by femtocells is included in the study, the effects of WiFi offload are explicitly not included. Similarly, the forecast does not take into account RFID traffic or any other traffic carried over unlicensed radio frequency bands.

The report builds on previous UMTS Forum studies, taking account of trends such as smartphones and social networking via mobile. Specifically, the forecasts accords closely with a 27x increase forecast by the UMTS Forum in 2005 – an era that preceded smartphones, app stores and the mass availability of 3G ‘dongles’.

“This new report reflects ever-increasing consumer demand for mobile broadband services”, notes UMTS Forum Chairman Jean-Pierre Bienaimé. “These latest forecasts are of particular interest in the context of discussions about availability of sufficient spectrum to support the continuing growth in demand for mobile broadband services”.

Mobile traffic forecasts 2010-2020 was offered as a recent contribution by the UMTS Forum in the framework of global traffic forecasts conducted by ITU-R and CEPT/ECC. It will also be offered as a key input at the next World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC-12 and WRC-15/16) – the so-called ‘Wireless Olympics’, where regulations governing the use of radio-frequency spectrum are reviewed.

“The ITU-R’s efforts in the past on IMT spectrum and technology have directly enabled the global success of mobile broadband”, states Bienaimé. “We have also seen that harmonised spectrum facilitates economies of scale, driving down pricing of mobile devices for consumers. Based on these new traffic forecasts, further actions in the ITU-R framework are now needed to meet traffic demand for the next 10 years”.

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