Global mobile data traffic to reach 52m TB in 2015

Gartner says 'soaring' mobile data traffic will put pressure on service providers

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Global mobile data traffic to reach 52m TB in 2015 Mobile data traffic will have reached around 173m TB by 2018
By  Tom Paye Published  August 5, 2015

Global mobile data traffic is set to reach 52m terabytes (TB) in 2015, an increase of 59% over 2014, according to the latest forecast from Gartner.

In a recent report, Gartner said that it expects this pace of growth to continue through 2018, by which time global mobile data traffic will have reached around 173m TB, particularly as users take advantage of faster cellular data technologies.

"Mobile data traffic is soaring worldwide, more than tripling by 2018," said Jessica Ekholm, research director at Gartner.

"New, fast mobile data connections (3G and 4G) will grow more slowly, from 3.8bn in 2015 to 5.1bn in 2018, as users switch from slower 2G connections and consume more mobile data."

In its report, Gartner also urged communication service providers (CSPs) to rethink data caps on mobile internet tariffs, so that consumers' needs could be met. This, the research house said, could result in winning market share.

To back up this advice, Gartner drew on the results of a survey that it conducted in the third quarter of 2014. The survey asked 1,000 smartphone users in the US and 1,000 in Germany about their mobile app usage habits.

"Germany and the US provide two distinct mature markets from which we can make good comparisons about CSP strategies and their impact on broader consumer behaviour," said Ekholm.

The survey showed that German users are more restricted by their data plans, and are therefore less likely to watch videos or consume large amounts of data via cellular networks compared to the US. This means less revenue per user for CSPs in Germany.

When asked if they would wait until they get to a Wi-Fi area to download an app or stream content from a video app, 54% of Germans agreed and only 36% of US respondents said yes. This is because more than 43% of US users felt unconstrained by their data plans, while just 20% of German users felt the same. Thirty-eight per cent of German respondents said they only get 500MB with their monthly data plan. On average, Germans stream 10.6 minutes per cellular video session compared with 17.4 minutes for Americans.

Gartner said that CSPs must create and sell data plans with higher caps to increase their share of this growing market.

"With video usage as a percentage of total data usage set to rise from 50% now to 60% by 2018, we should expect CSPs to offer the best-of-breed video experience to consumers," said Ms. Ekholm.

"This involves using video optimisation technologies and caching content closer to the consumer. Contract plans that single out video traffic to allow users to reach a certain cap (without touching their contract data cap) will increase usage and revenue for CSPs and meet consumer demand for more mobile video."

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