Smartphones rule. The world is moving quickly to 4G and faster networks. Mobile users watch a lot — a lot — of video. Wearable tech is on the rise, albeit slowly.
By 2018, global mobile data traffic will reach an annual run rate of 190 exabytes per year, up from 18 exabytes in 2013. An exabyte, Cisco helpfully reminds us, is equal to one billion gigabytes. That 190 exabytes is equal to playing 4 trillion video clips, 4-minutes long each.
“What’s driving this growth is a shift in device mix toward smarter devices,” says Arielle Sumits, an analyst at Cisco, the world’s largest maker of networking gear. Cisco predicts that the number of mobile users will to rise to 4.9 billion in 2018 from 4.1 billion in 2013 as consumers in emerging markets come online.
Cisco has been making projections around mobile traffic for eight years as part of its annual Visual Networking Index. Here’s what else the company found:
• More mobile connections. In five years, there will be more than 10 billion mobile-ready devices and connections, including eight billion personal mobile devices and two billion machine-to-machine connections. That’s up from seven million mobile-ready devices (likes smartphones, tablets and laptops) and M2M connection in 2013. At the same time, mobile networks speeds are expected to almost double to 2.5 Mbps in 2013 from 1.4 Mbps last year.
• Average mobile users. In 2013, users watched about two hours of video per month, listened two hours of audio, made five video calls and downloaded two apps over their cellular network. By 2018, we’re expected to watch 20 hours of video per month, listen to 10 hours of video, make 11 video calls and download 20 apps.
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• More smart devices. Smartphones, tablets and laptops will drive about 94 percent of mobile traffic in five years.
• More video over mobile. The idea that consumers won’t be interested in watching on video devices is now almost laughable as higher-definition screens appear on mobile devices. By 2018, mobile video will represent 69 percent of mobile traffic, up from 53 percent last year.
• Wearables worth watching. Cisco estimates that there were 21.7 million wearable devices in 2013. In five years, that number is expected to rise to 176.9 million devices (compare that to 1 billion smartphones sold in 2013).
• Faster networks. Mobile network speeds are expected to almost double to 2.5 Mbps in 2013 from 1.4 Mbps last year. By 2018, 4G connections will support 51 percent of total mobile data, up from 30 percent in 2013.
• Wi-Fi offloading. Fifty-two percent of mobile traffic will be offloaded onto Wi-Fi/small cell networks (instead of being carried on cellular networks) in five years, up from 45 percent in 2013.
• Top traffic-generating mobile apps. Cisco says it studied Android users to discover what mobile apps they’re using on cellular networks and WiFi networks. On cellular networks, Facebook, which celebrated its 10th anniversary yesterday , is responsible for generating the most mobile traffic. The other top 9 apps: YouTube, Netflix NFLX +0.54%, TubeMate, Instagram, TuneIn, SoundCloud, Flipboard, Skype and Twitter. On Wi-Fi networks, mobile users were most busy with Netflix, Instagram, Dropbox, Facebook, YouTube, Flipboard, TuneIn, VLC Media Player, BSPlayer and Spotify.
Cisco’s complete report can be found here.