Mobile data growth

Mobile data consumption is growing 50% per year

Mobile data consumption is growing at so fast pace that mobile operators are struggling to build networks that would be able to handle the huge demand in data traffic. Wi-Fi networks account for about half of the mobile data consumptions and for most of mobile operators it is among their strategy to build out their own Wi-Fi networks to offload some of the data from 3G / 4G / LTE networks to Wi-Fi networks. But the data consumption today is only fraction of what the current trends are taking us in the next 5 years. Hereby we have put together some numbers from Ericsson and Cisco yearly and quarterly reports.

Mobile data growth forecast - 5 x growth in 5 years

Mobile data growth (Source: Ericsson Mobility Report – Ericsson traffic measurements (Q1 2016))

According to Ericsson mobile data report data usage grew during the last year by 60% (Q1 2015 vs Q1 2016 according to Ericsson Mobility Report). It is expected that yearly growth will be around 40-50%. Most of the data traffic is generated from video apps () like Youtube, Netflix and others. Social networks get the second place in terms of data usage, followed by audio and software updates.

About half of mobile devices data consumption is happening on Wi-Fi networks (51% in 2015 according to Cisco Visual Networking Index published in 2016 Q1.  And it is expected that it will grow to 58% by 2020. So the importance of Wi-Fi networks is important now or growing a bit.

Mobile and offload traffic

Mobile and Offload Traffic from Mobile-Connected Devices. Half of it is Wi-Fi. Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index


If 4G gets implemented and rolled out then the Wi-Fi usage should drop?

In lots of devices 4G / LTE connectivity provides faster speeds than the Wi-Fi. Therefore it would be reasonable to assume that Wi-Fi will be less relevant. Based on the data however – in case of 4G / LTE devices the data offload that is done in the Wi-Fi networks is bigger compared to 3G and 2G devices. The reason is that 4G networks have attracted high-usage devices such as advanced smartphones and tablets, and it appears that 4G plans are subject to data caps similar to 3G plans. Meaning that people are likely to run out of their monthly data allocation before the end of the month. As an example the amount of traffic offloaded from 4G vs 3G was 56% compared to 46% at the end of 2015.

The number of Wi-Fi hotspots is growing at a similar rate of data usage. Currently there are about 64 million Wi-Fi hotspots in the world and it is expected that it will grow to 432 million by 2020. Making it around 40-50% YoY growth.

Global Wi-Fi Hotspot strategy and future

Global Wi-Fi Hotspot Coverage and Availability trends. Source: Maravedis, Cisco VNI Mobile, 2016

As a conclusion data that is used over Wi-Fi networks accounts for over half of the total mobile data consumption and it is also growing. People switch over to Wi-Fi whenever possible to avoid consuming their mobile data packs, more so while using 4G / LTE capable devices as these will consume more data. The amount of Wi-Fi hotspots is also growing at around 50% per year.

Rebelroam helps to build Wi-Fi networks for the transportation and travel industry and we can see the same trends – more data per device; more people connect to Wi-Fi networks; most of the devices being high end 4G / LTE capable devices.

About the author: Tarvo

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