Cisco Canada Blog

Canadian service providers: Latest VNI forecast shows 13-fold increase in mobile data traffic by 2017

February 15, 2013

By: Jeffery Maddox, Vice President, Systems Engineering, Service Provider Sales, Cisco Canada

As you may recall from last year, Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI) reports and forecasts worldwide stats on mobile data traffic for the next five years. This year’s VNI report gives us an idea of what mobile data traffic will look like in 2017 and the numbers are staggering.

But why is it so important?

You don’t have to look too hard to understand Canadians love their smartphones and mobile devices. In fact, one only needs to look to the recent launch of BlackBerry’s new Z10 smartphone and the widespread coverage the device garnered both in the traditional press and across social media channels. Similar to other devices already on the market, this phone boasts a high definition screen and video camera that allows users to video conference with each other. And guess what? All that high definition video is increasingly becoming the biggest single contributor to mobile data traffic.

In other words: Canadian service providers need to be ready.

Last year, mobile video alone represented 51% of global mobile data traffic; by 2017 it will account for 66%, and while that number alone is impressive, consider that by 2017 Cisco predicts mobile data traffic will reach an annual run rate of 134 exabytes.

134 exabytes! That’s 134,000,000,000 gigabytes.

To give you some perspective, if a text transcript of all the words ever spoken – ever – was created, it would only be about 5 exabytes. If you took a video recording of all the meetings that took place last year around the world, it would equal about 100 exabytes. It’s almost difficult to imagine, but 134 exabytes is about the equivalent of 30 trillion Instagram images or 3 trillion YouTube clips.

To what can we attribute this 13-fold increase in mobile data traffic from 2012 – 2017? The first cause is mobile users. By 2017 Cisco is estimating there will be 5.2 billion mobile users, almost a billion more than there are today (4.3 billion). Those users will also be connecting through 10 billion mobile-ready devices, including more than 1.7 billion mobile-to-mobile (M2M) connections – a jump from the 7 billion today.

These numbers will significantly impact the way people connect through mobile devices in the next 5 years. By then, only 2% of mobile data traffic will come from basic handsets – smartphones, laptops and tablets will create 93% of all mobile data traffic. The remaining 5% will come from M2M connections.

To help mitigate the rise in demand for mobile Internet, and the increase in average mobile speeds that are expected, service providers are going to have to respond by offloading mobile traffic onto fixed and Wi-Fi networks. Last year, 33% of mobile traffic was offloaded to these fixed networks, while we expect this number to rise to 46% by 2017.

What does it all mean? To the average Canadian mobile Internet user, these stats are fascinating and show they will probably be browsing on faster connections within five years. But for service providers, the VNI report paints a much different picture, one that demands action, especially as higher definition video content continues to drive mobile data traffic.

Are you a consumer of mobile video? Tell us in the comments below how it is already changing the way you work, live and learn, and what you are hoping for in the future, or let us know on Facebook and Twitter.

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