The global annual data traffic volume will exceed 60,000 petabytes in 2016, over seven times more than the 8,000 petabytes expected this year, according to a new report from ABI Research.
The research firm said in a Tuesday statement that global data traffic will rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 50 percent between 2011 and 2016. It also predicted that the fastest year-on-year growth will occur in 2012, at 58 percent.
ABI Research said one of the main reasons for the robust growth in wireless data traffic is the increase in video traffic.
Neil Strother, practice director at ABI Research, explained: "There are basically two types of video use cases that drive heavy traffic: clips from YouTube and similar sites that are often shared via other social media, as well as lengthier content like series and even films."
"Video and TV streaming should surpass Web and Internet traffic in 2015," he added.
The study also found that the increase in usage of devices larger than handsets such as laptops, media tablets and the like, are another major driver for the growth of data traffic.
Noting that the bigger the screen, the more entertainment the device can deliver, ABI Research said usage patterns will be similar to that of wired broadband, especially where video is concerned. To that end, the traffic generated by larger-screen devices will grow from about 65 percent of the total traffic volume in 2011 to over 75 percent in 2016.
In order to keep abreast with the rapidly-changing market, operators have to differentiate themselves and ease network congestion by looking at areas such as pricing and data policy, said Aapo Markkanen, senior analyst at ABI Research. "Operators should better align the pricing and the allowance of data plans with usage patterns.
"It is an area with a lot of scope for innovation."
ABI Research's prediction is bolder than Cisco Systems--the networking giant said in February mobile data traffic will grow to 6.3 exabytes by 2015. One exabyte is equivalent to 1,000 petabytes.