Australian mobile data boom on back of 4G

The amount of data that Australians are consuming over mobile networks is set to increase six-fold by 2017, with 4G leading the way, according to Cisco.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The amount of data that Australians are pushing over mobile networks will increase from 13,000 terabytes per month in 2012 to 75,000 terabytes in 2017 on the back of the rise of 4G long-term evolution (LTE) devices in Australia, according to Cisco.

Explaining Cisco's Mobile Visual Networking Index on Wednesday, the company's vice president of global technology, Dr Robert Pepper, said that Australia's growth in mobile traffic differs from the rest of the world, where one of the main drivers is more users getting connected to devices where they weren't before. In Australia, he said that almost everyone who is going to be connected already is.

The growth of mobile data consumption in Australia, he said, is being driven by more users getting more devices, and devices that offer faster speeds, such as 4G.

Globally, by 2017, Cisco forecasts that 27 percent of all devices connected to mobile networks will be smartphones, but in Australia this will be much higher, at 51 percent, as Australians move off 2G mobile phones much faster than the rest of the world. Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication over mobile networks will also be bigger in Australia than globally, accounting for 28 percent of connections in 2017 in Australia, versus 12.6 percent globally.

Globally, the company forecasts that by 2017, the major data use will shift from being mainly through laptops and smartphones to smartphones, tablets, and 4G phones. By 2017, M2M communications are forecast to use 330MB per month, while smartphones will use 2.6GB per month, and 4G phones will tear through 5.1GB per month.

In 2017, 4G will count for 45 percent of all mobile traffic, compared to 51 percent for 3G and 4 percent for 2G, according to Cisco's forecast. In Australia, 4G uptake will be slightly down, at 40 percent of all traffic by 2017, up from 9 percent in 2012, with the remaining 60 percent being almost entirely 3G traffic.

While 4G in Australia offers greater speeds, that speed isn't being matched with expanded data plans that are different to what customers already get on 3G. Pepper said that although 3G and 4G have similar data limits at similar prices today, he predicts that telcos will begin to price 4G differently.

"3G and 4G look similar, but over time … their 4G plans begin to look different to the 3G," he said. "All this is going to be adjusted. The operators are experimenting."

Pepper said in the United States, for example, many 3G phone plans came with unlimited data plans, but for 4G, there are different capped plans.

That data limit issue would also see an increase in the amount of mobile offloading onto wi-fi networks, Pepper said. Globally, by 2017, 46 percent of mobile data will be going through wi-fi networks, he said, compared to 33 percent in 2012. In Australia, this will go from 15 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2017.

Josh Taylor travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Cisco.

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