Cisco expects just 422 million 5G connections by 2022

In its latest mobile data report, Cisco predicts that only about 3 percent of total mobile connections will occur over upgraded high-speed networks by 2022.

A new mobile traffic report from Cisco suggests that data levels will balloon globally by 2022 to an annual run rate close to a zettabyte, but with little expected impact from 5G. In its updated Mobile Visual Networking Index (MVNI): Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, Cisco projects consumer and business mobile data traffic will reach 930 exabytes annually by 2022, with only about 3 percent of total mobile connections occurring over 5G's upgraded high-speed networks.   

The prediction lines up with the 5G's slow crawl of a rollout globally. Overall, Cisco said there will be more than 12 billion mobile-ready devices and IoT connections by 2022, with just 422 million connections coming from 5G devices. 

Connections to both 5G device users and machine-to-machine systems will account for only about 12 percent of global mobile data traffic, according to Cisco. Nonetheless, Cisco's report highlights an upcoming shift from small-scale 5G trial environments to some larger-scale commercial deployments. The company also expects the technology to bring enhanced power efficiency, cost optimization and IoT connection density.

"There has been considerable hype and hoopla around 5G over the past few years, particularly regarding its potential performance enhancements," wrote Thomas Barnett, director of thought leadership in Cisco's worldwide service provider marketing group. "With the potential to support exceed 1 Gbps (in the future) and ultra-low latency, 5G's performance is anticipated by many to be a real game changer in mobile technology. By 2022, we believe 5G's initial impact will be measurable and significant."

In terms of mobile speeds, Cisco expects that network capabilities will increase more than three-fold from 8.7 Mbps in 2017 to 28.5 Mbps by 2022, driven in part by 5G. Meantime, Cisco projects that mobile networks will support more than eight billion personal mobile devices and four billion IoT connections within three years. Mobile video is also on the rise and will represent 79 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2022, Cisco said. 

"As global mobile traffic approaches the zettabyte era, we believe that 5G and WiFi will coexist as necessary and complementary access technologies, offering key benefits to our enterprise and service provider customers to extend their architectures," said Jonathan Davidson, SVP and GM of Cisco's service provider business.

WiFi will remain the way most people connect to the internet for some time to come, according to Cisco. The company predicts that 59 percent of total mobile data traffic will flow through WiFi networks, compared with 54 percent in 2017. Total IP traffic is expected to be 29 percent wired, 51 percent WiFi, and 20 percent mobile.

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