Cisco Canada Blog

Why faster devices, video and machine-to-machine traffic are driving rapid growth in mobile data

February 10, 2014

Last week we released the 2013 update to our annual Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Forecast and it contained some interesting data points on the Canadian market. For those of you not familiar with the forecast, it’s a report that examines trends and projections for global mobile data traffic. I’ve written about the VNI report in the past and I think the findings are helpful to anyone involved in the service provider industry.

For Canada, one of the big findings this year was that our mobile data traffic doubled in 2013 from 2012. That’s a big jump. Why did this happen? There were a few reasons, including the expansion of 4G networks, a proliferation of smartphones and the growth of machine-to-machine traffic.

Here are a few other figures that stood out for me:

– Mobile data traffic in Canada averaged 28.6 Petabytes per month last year – the equivalent of 7 million DVDs
– The average smartphone connection speed in Canada was 10,777 kilobits per second (kbps), up 85 per cent from 5,824 kbps in 2012
– Since 2008, Canada’s mobile traffic has grown 46 times over
– The average smartphone in Canada generated 1,067 megabytes of mobile data per month – up from 728 megabytes per month in 2012

That’s a lot of numbers, but what do they all mean?

Canadian carriers are building faster mobile networks as they replace older infrastructure with 4G equipment. Those networks are being accessed by more devices than ever before, and by faster devices. For example, the average 4G device in Canada generated 2,226 megabytes (MB) in traffic per month compared to just 606 MB for non-4G devices. As more 4G devices hit the market in the next few years, Canadian carriers are going to need to continue building out faster infrastructure to meet growing data demands.

Smartphones, tablets and laptops aren’t the only devices accessing mobile networks. In Canada, the number of mobile-connected machine-to-machine (M2M) modules grew 111 per cent last year to 3 million devices. This includes new wearable technologies such as Google Glass and smart watches.

By 2018 we are forecasting the number of machine-to-machine connections in Canada will grow 7.7 times to reach 24 million modules. To any naysayers out there, I think this proves we’re now definitely in the era of the Internet of Everything, where we have more devices connected to the Internet than we have people on the planet.

The Internet of Everything and the growing demand for mobile content and connections from Canadian businesses, consumers, machines and ‘things’ means Canadian carriers need to continue adding mobile network bandwidth. We expect Wi-Fi access points operated by service providers will be able to offload some of the growing mobile data traffic, but they won’t be able to handle all of it.

Faster mobile networks and devices are allowing people to connect with each other and consume content in entirely new ways. I’m excited to see what new applications, devices and business opportunities are created in the next few years through the growth in mobile network coverage and speeds.

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