The Mobile Network in 2011 and 2012

Global mobile data traffic grew 2.3-fold in 2011, more than doubling for the fourth year in a row. The 2011 mobile data traffic growth rate was higher than anticipated. Last year’s forecast projected that the growth rate would be 131 percent. This year’s estimate is that global mobile data traffic grew 133 percent in 2011.

Last year’s mobile data traffic was eight times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. Global mobile data traffic in 2011 (597 petabytes per month) was over eight times greater than the total global Internet traffic in 2000 (75 petabytes per month).

Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2011. Mobile video traffic was 52 percent of traffic by the end of 2011.

Mobile network connection speeds grew 66 percent in 2011. Globally, the average mobile network downstream speed in 2011 was 315 kilobits per second (kbps), up from 189 kbps in 2010. The average mobile network connection speed for smartphones in 2011 was 1344 kbps, up from 968 kbps in 2010.

In 2011, a fourth-generation (4G) connection generated 28 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection. Although 4G connections represent only 0.2 percent of mobile connections today, they already account for 6 percent of mobile data traffic.

The top 1 percent of mobile data subscribers generate 24 percent of mobile data traffic, down from 35 percent 1 year ago. According to a mobile data usage study conducted by Cisco, mobile data traffic has evened out over the last year and now approaches the 1:20 ratio that has been true of fixed networks for several years.

Average smartphone usage nearly tripled in 2011. The average amount of traffic per smartphone in 2011 was 150 MB per month, up from 55 MB per month in 2010.

Smartphones represent only 12 percent of total global handsets in use today, but they represent over 82 percent of total global handset traffic. In 2011, the typical smartphone generated 35 times more mobile data traffic (150 MB per month) than the typical basic-feature cell phone (which generated only 4.3 MB per month of mobile data traffic).

Globally, 33 percent of handset and tablet traffic was offloaded onto the fixed network through dual-mode or femtocell in 2011. In 2011, 72 petabytes of smartphone and tablet traffic were offloaded onto the fixed network each month. Without offload, traffic originating from phones and tablets would have been 217 petabytes per month rather than 147 petabytes per month in 2011.

Android is now higher than iPhone levels of data use. Toward the end of 2011, Android consumption was equal to iPhone consumption, if not higher, in the United States and Western Europe.

In 2011, 10 percent of mobile devices were potentially IPv6-capable. This estimate is based on network connection speed and OS capability.

In 2011, the number of mobile-connected tablets tripled to 34 million, and each tablet generated 3.4 times more traffic than the average smartphone. In 2011, mobile data traffic per tablet was 517 MB per month, compared to 150 MB per month per smartphone.

There were 175 million laptops on the mobile network in 2011, and each laptop generated 22 times more traffic than the average smartphone. Mobile data traffic per laptop was 2.1 GB per month, up 46 percent from 1.5 GB per month in 2010.

Nonsmartphone usage increased 2.3-fold to 4.3 MB per month in 2011, compared to 1.9 MB per month in 2010. Basic handsets still make up the vast majority of devices on the network (88 percent).

The Mobile Network Through 2016

Mobile data traffic will reach the following milestones within the next five years.

• Monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 10 exabytes in 2016.
• Over 100 million smartphone users will belong to the “gigabyte club” (over 1 GB per month) by 2012.
• The number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population in 2012.
• The average mobile connection speed will surpass 1 Mbps in 2014.
• Due to increased usage on smartphones, handsets will exceed 50 percent of mobile data traffic in 2014.
• Monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 10 exabytes in 2016.
• Monthly mobile tablet traffic will surpass 1 exabyte per month in 2016.
• Tablets will exceed 10 percent of global mobile data traffic in 2016.
• China will exceed 10 percent of global mobile data traffic in 2016.

Global mobile data traffic will increase 18-fold between 2011 and 2016. Mobile data traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 78 percent from 2011 to 2016, reaching 10.8 exabytes per month by 2016.

By the end of 2012, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2016 there will be 1.4 mobile devices per capita. There will be over 10 billion mobile-connected devices in 2016, including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules-exceeding the world’s population at that time (7.3 billion).

Mobile network connection speeds will increase 9-fold by 2016. The average mobile network connection speed (189 kbps in 2011) will exceed 2.9 megabits per second (Mbps) in 2016.

In 2016, 4G will be 6 percent of connections, but 36 percent of total traffic. In 2016, a 4G connection will generate 9 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection.

By 2016, 39 percent of all global mobile devices could potentially be capable of connecting to an IPv6 mobile network. Over 4 billion devices will be IPv6-capable in 2016.

Two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2016. Mobile video will increase 25-fold between 2011 and 2016, accounting for over 70 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of the forecast period.

Mobile-connected tablets will generate almost as much traffic in 2016 as the entire global mobile network in 2012. The amount of mobile data traffic generated by tablets in 2016 (1.1 exabytes per month) will be approximately equal to the total amount of global mobile data traffic in 2012 (1.3 exabytes per month).

The average smartphone will generate 2.6 GB of traffic per month in 2016, a 17-fold increase over the 2011 average of 150 MB per month. Aggregate smartphone traffic in 2016 will be 50 times greater than it is today, with a CAGR of 119 percent.

By 2016, over 3.1 exabytes of mobile data traffic will be offloaded to the fixed network by means of dual-mode devices and femtocells each month. Without dual-mode and femtocell offload of handset and tablet traffic, total mobile data traffic would grow at a CAGR of 84 percent between 2011 and 2016 (21-fold growth), instead of the projected CAGR of 78 percent (18-fold growth).