Mobile computing eats the world, in exabyte-size chunks

Cisco's latest estimates of mobile network traffic predicts 10-fold growth, mainly via cloud, and mainly delivering video

We talk quite a bit about the changing nature of the end-user client, how it's been gravitating away from the typical desktop computer configuration to all sorts and brands of mobile devices. Now, a new report from Cisco puts some numbers on this shift, and they're pretty staggering numbers.

Photo: Joe McKendrick

Overall, the latest Cisco report estimates, global mobile data traffic will grow almost 10-fold over the next five years, from about 30 exabytes in the most recent year to 292 exabytes by 2019.

Mobile cloud traffic is projected to grow nearly 11-fold from 2014 (2 exabytes/month) to 2019 (21.8 exabytes/month). In 2014, cloud applications accounted for 81 percent of total mobile data traffic; by 2019, cloud applications will account for 90 percent of total mobile data traffic.

Cisco also expects that global mobile traffic growth will outpace global fixed traffic growth by a factor of three. At the root of it is there simply be more mobile users -- rising from 4.3 billion now to 5.2 billion by 2019. Amazingly, that will be more than 69 percent of the world's population (7.6 billion people) will be mobile users.

There will also be more mobile connections -- from 7.4 billion total mobile-ready devices and M2M connections at this time to 11.5 billion mobile-ready devices/connections, including 8.3 billion personal mobile devices and 3.2 billion M2M connections in 2019. A lot of it will be big data: by 2019, mobile video will represent 72 percent of global mobile data traffic (up from 55 percent in 2014).

Here's the breakdown in terms of terabytes per month consumed, at this time versus the amount consumed by 2019:

  • Smartphones (60% Compounded annual growth rate)
    • 2014: 1,735,263 TBs/month
    • 2019: 18,235,073 TBs/month
  • Laptops (22% Compounded annual growth rate)
    • 2014: 498,285 TBs/month
    • 2019: 1,365,884 TBs/month
  • Tablets (83% Compounded annual growth rate)
    • 2014: 154,081 TBs/month
    • 2019: 3,200,215 TBs/month
  • M2M (103% Compounded annual growth rate)
    • 2014: 35,657 TBs/month
    • 2019: 1,223,708 TBs/month
  • Other Portable Devices (25% Compounded annual growth rate)
    • 2014: 1,284 TBs/month
    • 2019: 3,971 TBs/month

The rise of mobile computing is also creating opportunities for new types of businesses as well, Cisco observes. "As many business models emerge with new forms of advertising, media and content partnerships, and mobile services including M2M, live gaming, and augmented reality, a mutually beneficial situation needs to be developed for service providers and over-the-top providers. New partnerships, ecosystems, and strategic consolidations are expected as mobile operators, content providers, application developers, and others seek to monetize the video traffic that traverses mobile networks."

Cisco says it arrived at these estimates by taking the number and growth of connections and devices, applying adoption rates for applications, and then multiplying the application user base by Cisco's estimated minutes of use and KB per minute for that application.