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How High Is Mobile Data Traffic Worldwide?

Adoption of advanced mobile devices, faster network speeds drive surge in mobile data usage

February 20, 2015

Global mobile data traffic grew nearly 70% in 2014 to 2.5 exabytes per month, vs. 1.5 exabytes monthly in 2013, according to data from Cisco Systems. The firm forecast that by 2019, global mobile data traffic would reach 24.3 exabytes per month.

Mobile Connection Share Worldwide, by Type, 2014, 2017 & 2019 (% of total)

Rapid adoption of advanced mobile devices is a key driver of this growth. Cisco estimated that smart devices would increase their share of mobile connections by nearly 127% between 2014 and 2019, from 26% to 59%.

More advanced devices are often equipped with faster network speeds—used by consumers to access mobile content, which in turn fuels more traffic. While 2G connections maintained the largest global mobile device share last year, at 62%, Cisco forecast that 3G would pass 2G in 2017 to boast the largest share of connections. In 2019, even faster 4G networks were expected to top 2G as well, rising to 31% of the total.

Mobile Data Traffic Worldwide, 2013-2016 (exabytes and % change)

Figures released by Gartner in February 2015 estimated that mobile data traffic worldwide would reach 51.8 exabytes in 2015—a year-over-year rise of 59%. Strong growth was expected to continue next year, with global mobile data traffic projected to increase 53% to 79.5 exabytes.

Gartner pointed to several drivers of such growth, including faster networks (Cisco estimated that average global mobile network speeds would increase from 1.7 Mbps to 4.0 Mbps between 2014 and 2019), a rise in the number of network users, and more affordable 3G and 4G handsets. However, mobile content and apps—and mobile video in particular—were called out as the key drivers of traffic volume. The firm reported that mobile video generated 50% of all mobile data—in line with the 55% reported by Cisco, which estimated that this share would reach 72% by 2019.

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