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Summary:

Cisco forecasts that by 2014 we will be using 3.6 exabytes per month on mobile networks worldwide, according to its Visual Networking Index figures released today. For those pondering an exabyte, it’s equal to 1 billion gigabytes or half a trillion MP3 files.

Cisco forecasts that by 2014 we will be using 3.6 exabytes a month on mobile networks worldwide, according to its Visual Networking Index figures released today. (For those pondering an exabyte, it’s equal to 1 billion gigabytes or half a trillion MP3 files.) And by 2014, we’re apparently going to be sucking down 40 exabytes annually from our mobile broadband networks, up from a total of 1.08 exabytes in all of 2009.

A desire for always-on connectivity is behind Cisco’s incredible predictions for growth as well as the increasing number of devices that allow us to surf the mobile web with wired-Internet ease. If the mobile web is a cocktail served at a bar, our devices have moved from being thin cocktail straws to data-quaffing iPads. Plus, more of us are now able to drink legally, which means more bar patrons and more consumption by those bellying up to the mobile broadband bar. It’s both a nightmare and dream for mobile operators, and a clear opportunity for equipment vendors like Cisco and gadget makers like Apple.

For example, today, the average mobile broadband connection generates 1.3 gigabytes of traffic per month — while consumers using mobile broadband via a data card pay around $60 a month for a 5 GB-chunk of access. By 2014, the average mobile broadband connection will generate 7 GB of traffic per month, which means that operators are going to have to revamp their pricing plans while also lowering the costs associated with sending bits through their networks in order to keep margins up.

I’ll have more analysis on the numbers later, but here are the bare bone stats, which should be enough to knock your socks off — or strike terror into the hearts of mobile operators — some of which can’t even handle the data deluge caused by the iPhone.

  • Global mobile data traffic has increased by 160 percent over the past year to 90 petabytes per month — the equivalent of 23 million DVDs.
  • Global mobile data traffic today is growing today 2.4 times faster than global fixed broadband data traffic.
  • Smartphones and laptop air cards will drive more than 90 percent of global mobile traffic by 2014.
  • Of the anticipated traffic, Wi-Fi offload and other offload will only reduce mobile data use by 25 percent by 2014.
  • Global mobile video traffic is forecasted to be 2.3 exabytes per month by 2014.
  • By 2014, more than 400 million of the world’s Internet users will access the network solely through a mobile connection.
  • Today, smartphones are only 10 percent of all handsets in use, but generate over 50 percent of global mobile data handset traffic.

Related GigaOM Pro report (subscription required): 


How AT&T Will Deal With iPad Data Traffic

  1. you know, just looking at the bottom graph, it seems they are already predicting mobile video is +50% of mobile data traffic in 2010… in 2011 it looks more like 70%… wonder if that is true ? (I know I look at youtube on my phone a fair amount but 50% of my traffic today ?) guess I’ll need to look at their report more closely.

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  2. What will happen when today’s 4 billion wireless users all have smart-phones?

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  3. [...] Stacy Higginbotham at Gigaom posts a study that validates this growing mobile broadband market. The report was released by Cisco which puts [...]

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  4. Can the wireless networks handle the forecasted traffic? And at what price to consumers?

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  5. It looks like the growth is primarily driven by increase use of video on mobiles. The question is whether you think HD-quality video will increasingly be consumed on mobile devices.

    If people dump their home Internet connection for a mobile one and begin watching more and more video (YouTube, Hulu, MLB, etc.) in full-quality on laptops and iPads, it’s easy to see this trend becoming reality.

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  6. for many younger people (including students and teens) a mobile device may be their only private method of accessing the internet, their other access method being a closely-monitored family or school computer.

    this generation has grown up with the always-connected mind-set, and so a mobile device is an inevitable extension of their lifestyle

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  7. This is fascinating, thanks for the commentary on the report. I’m going to have to take a closer look myself at this data. I’m fascinated by the low percentage of VoIP, and wondering if that is due to its low requirement on bandwith or perception that it will not significantly increase in usauge.

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  8. [...] Cisco: The Mobilpocalypse Is Coming!!!!! [...]

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  9. I guess wireless carriers are just going to have to reinvest some of that money the smartphones have made them into rolling out next-gen wireless technology instead of paying out big dividends.

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