But wi-fi and femtocells will take the lion's share of the strain, says Juniper Research...
Femtocells such as Vodafone's Sure Signal are one of the data-offloading options open to operatorsPhoto: ZDNet UK
Mobile devices including smartphones and tablets will be generating some 14,000 petabytes of data by 2015, reckons analyst house Juniper Research - equivalent to 18 billion film downloads or three trillion music tracks.
But mobile operators needn't start panicking because the analyst says their networks won't be taking most of the strain by then. Instead, wi-fi and femtocells will be carrying most mobile data traffic - 63 per cent, or 9,000 petabytes - by 2015.
Writing in its Mobile Data Offload and Onload Report, Juniper says while data growth over cellular networks will be substantial, it will not be the "data explosion" that some have predicted.
However, the analyst says the migration of data traffic from fixed to mobile will still exacerbate the strains on mobile operators' networks - noting that a significant proportion of the data offloaded from cellular to wi-fi and femtocells could itself be offset by data users switching from fixed to mobile networks.
According to Juniper, wi-fi currently accounts for 90 per cent of offloaded mobile data traffic. But the analyst reckons femtocells will account for an increasing proportion over the next five years.