Mobile Drives Subscriptions, Fixed Networks Drive Data Volume

The proportion of Internet access instances originating from mobile devices will vastly outnumber fixed network access, including both fixed networks and Wi-Fi, by 2018, Cisco now forecasts.

It is likely that fixed networks still will represent an order of magnitude more total data throughput than mobile networks do, by 2018, according to Ericsson.


Wider adoption of both smartphones and faster networks will help propel the trend, as will consumption of video on phones. Already, real-time video entertainment drives 63 percent of fixed network data usage and 43 percent of mobile data usage.

Globally, smart devices represented 21 percent of the total mobile devices and connections in 2013, but accounted for 88 percent of the mobile data traffic.

As more smartphones are added to the installed base, bandwidth demand is going to grow in almost linear fashion. In 2013, on an average, a smart device generated 29 times more traffic than a non-smart device.


By 2018, there will be more than 10 billion mobile-ready devices and connections, about three billion more than there were in 2013, and about five billion global mobile users, up from more than four billion in 2013.

Global mobile data traffic grew 81 percent in 2013, nearly 18 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000.

One exabyte of traffic traversed the global Internet in 2000, and in 2013 mobile networks carried nearly 18 exabytes of traffic, while mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2012.

By 2018, global mobile IP traffic will reach an annual run rate of 190 exabytes, up from less than 18 exabytes in 2013

And one might reasonably expect that ultra-low-cost smartphones, costing perhaps $25 each, instead of $200 to $600, will help drive the trend, as will growing instances of Internet access by sensors (machine-to-machine apps).

Globally, residential Internet users with fixed Internet access will grow from 1.9 billion in 2013 to 2.5 billion by 2018, according to Cisco's Visual Networking Index.

The total number of global consumer mobile devices and connections will grow from 6.1 billion in 2013 to 8.9 billion by 2018, the perhaps-significant development being that there will be 3.5 billion consumer smartphones in use by 2018, up from 1.5 billion in 2013.

That means Internet access will happen from 3.5 billion smartphones (and some billions of feature phones, to an extent), and 2.5 billion fixed locations, by 2018.

Ultimately, one might argue, mobile access could reach beyond 3.5 billion up to almost nine billion, assuming smart phones eventually become “phones,” and are used by nearly all mobile subscribers.

That will have “speed” implications, as the typical fixed connection will operate at 42 Mbps in 2018, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index.  

Western Europe will experience the fastest average fixed network speed of 49 Mbps by 2018, and Asia Pacific will have the greatest average speed increase, 2.7-fold growth by 2018 with fixed speeds reaching 48 Mbps by 2018.

Globally, Wi-Fi connection speeds available to mobile devices will more than double by 2018, exceeding 21 Mbps by 2018, yet still representing access at speeds less than half that of the fixed network.

Globally, mobile network connection speeds will nearly double by 2018, yet increase only to 2.5 Mbps by 2018. So fixed networks will continue to operate at an order of magnitude faster speeds than mobile networks, in aggregate.

North America will have the highest average mobile speed (4.5 Mbps) by 2018 along with the fastest growth (2.6-fold) from 2013 to 2018, according to Cisco.

The point is that, as Internet access shifts to mobile methods, the notion of “average” access speed will become more complex. And “average” speeds could decline.

A crucial factor promoting the increase in mobile speeds over the forecast period is the increasing proportion of fourth-generation (4G)mobile connections. The impact of 4G connections on traffic is significant, because 4G connections, which include mobile WiMAX and Long-Term Evolution (LTE), generate a disproportionate amount of mobile data traffic.

Global Mobile Speed Growth

The composition of IP traffic will shift dramatically in the coming few years, Cisco predicts.

During the forecast period, the majority of traffic will originate from devices other than personal computers (PCs) for the first time in the history of the Internet.

Wi-Fi traffic will exceed wired traffic for the first time and high-definition (HD) video will generate more traffic than standard definition (SD) video.

The Internet of Everything is also gaining momentum and by 2018 there will be nearly as many machine-to-machine (M2M) connections as there are people on earth. Smart cars will have nearly four M2M modules per car.
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