More Mobile Devices, More Network Problems-Mobile Traffic on the Rise

By Steve Anderson February 06, 2014

The rise of mobile devices in the world has given us a lot of things to consider, and a lot of changes to how the world as we know it operates. Not only have we seen things like the rise of the bring your own device (BYOD) program, we've also seen the mobile workforce on the rise, as well as the increasing importance of the second screen when it comes to entertainment.  But with all these mobile devices comes an increase in the amount of bandwidth required to serve same, and that's going to put some big pressures on mobile providers in short order.

The annual Visual Networking Index study from Cisco Systems emerged, showing the truest extent of the problem. By 2018, according to the study, global mobile data traffic will reach a staggering 190 exabytes per year. By way of reference, Cisco notes that an exabyte is one billion gigabytes, so following the math to its somewhat unsettling conclusion means that 190 exabytes is roughly equivalent to playing fully four trillion video clips, each measuring four minutes in length. What's more, Cisco predicts something of a compounding of the issue, as the number of mobile users is set to take on a rise of its own, going from 2013's total of 4.1 billion to a total of 4.9 billion in 2018.

But it's not just people on smartphones driving mobile traffic ever onward: the rise of machine to machine (M2M) connectivity, in which machines are connected to pass on various bits of data and perform various functions, is also set to spike traffic. Reports suggest there will be over 10 billion mobile-ready devices and connections, and around two billion of those will be M2M connections. The increase in smart devices, and the ongoing increases in both smart devices and video viewed over such devices will likely drive big changes in the amounts of data used. The rise of wearable technology is also set to fuel some gains as well, as all that augmented reality and the like will require bandwidth to operate. With music and streaming video apps a big part of the traffic picture, it's clear that bandwidth is going to be hotly sought-after in the days and weeks to come.

This might sound like a disaster for mobile networks, especially since users won't want to hear about bandwidth caps and the like with all those applications out there for mobile devices. But the report also makes it clear that mobile providers are getting prepared for this onslaught of bandwidth use. Faster networks are in store, with network speeds expected to nearly double from the average of 1.4 Mbps in 2013 to reach speeds around 2.5 Mbps, and 4G connections will be carrying a simple majority—51 percent—of all mobile data by 2018. What's more, more companies are taking offloading seriously, as 52 percent of traffic will be offloaded to Wi-Fi or small cell networks in 2018. That's a pretty pronounced gain, as in 2013, 45 percent of traffic could say the same.

The end result here is that there's not only going to be a lot of demand for bandwidth in the near future, but there's also going to be plenty of extra bandwidth coming in to help address that demand. That's a welcome development for those concerned about bandwidth caps and otherwise slowdowns when it comes to getting data—net neutrality figures notwithstanding—and suggests at least a reasonably bright future in store for mobile users.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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