Australia's mobile love affair will wane: Cisco

Australians are hungry for mobile data, but won't be nearly as hungry as people in other countries by 2018, according to a Cisco forecast.

Australians love their mobile phones, but they're not going to witness the full extent of the data explosion that Cisco is forecasting overseas.

The network supplier has just added 2018 mobile forecasts to its Virtual Network Index (VNI), and it is forecasting rapid growth in mobile data consumption in four years' time. By then, mobile data around the world will be 190 times greater than all IP traffic (fixed and mobile) generated in 2000.

Reports like this always wow us about our bold future. For example, by 2018, on average, every person on the planet will upload a video clip on a mobile device each day. That's quite a commitment. They'll also send 15 images. Really? Surely that'll make Facebook totally unusable.

By then, the Internet of Everything will have taken off, with M2M connections accounting for nearly 20 percent of all devices and 6 percent of mobile traffic. And there will be 177 million wearable devices across the planet. Every owner will have said "beam me up, Scotty" into their connected wrist watch at least 10 times.

Sadly, like in the fixed-line world, Australia won't keep pace with most other developed nations when it comes to mobile usage.

Image: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet

Right now, our mobile consumption is not unusual. Last year, the average Aussie downloaded 0.9GB of mobile data per month (that's a per capita calculation, so it includes kids, oldies, and luddites). That's line ball with the UK (0.8GB) and close to the US (1.1GB). Japan seems to lead the way, but its consumption is still just 1.6GB per month; not a gargantuan difference.

Fast forward to 2018, and it's a different picture. Australia is at 4GB per month, whilst the US, at 8GB, is now double our consumption, and Japan has skyrocketed to 14GB. Why Australia fails to keep pace is anyone's guess, given the abundance of spectrum, the competition from three networks, and a tech-savvy public. It has to be more to do with the commercial models operating locally.

Perhaps it gets back to the story on video — it'll account for 65 percent of all Australian mobile traffic by 2018, but that's below the proportion and absolute volumes of our counterparts. The average American, for example, will download almost twice as much video as an Aussie. In Japan, they'll be watching more than three times as much. Could it be to do with the constricted supply of content? Will you really need a Foxtel account to watch anything in 2018? If so, sadly, Cisco's figures seem to indicate that discrepancy will continue for many years.

Aussies aren't just cautious about their mobile usage. The VNI shows a similar story for fixed-line traffic. In 2013, an average monthly download per capita of 14GB was about half the average for the US and the UK. In 2017 (the 2018 data won't be available until June), the US consumption will be three times ours, and the UK will still be downloading at twice the Aussie level. Even the Kiwis will be downloading more — 25GB per month, versus 23GB by the Aussies. How can we allow that to happen?

Sadly, Cisco wasn't available comment today on why Australia is so far behind the rest of the pack, with the gap widening as time passes. Next week, though, Cisco's Dr Robert Pepper will be in the country to deep dive on the data. Perhaps he'll be able to theorise on why one of the most prosperous nations is falling behind, even with world-class 4G networks.

Meanwhile, take the challenge. Buy yourself a bigger data allowance and start streaming. We have to prove to those Cisco number crunchers that Aussie consumers won't be beaten.