Exponential Increase in Mobile Data Consumption by 2021, Ericsson Predicts

by Matt Klassen on June 2, 2016

screen-shot-2016-06-01-at-14-35-38More smartphones, faster networks, and video’s growing dominance will all lead to an exponential increase in wireless data consumption by 2021, a study from Ericsson suggests. In fact, as Ericsson’s annual Mobility Report argues (PDF), in five years North Americans will consume, on average, 22GB of data per month, primarily on their smartphones, a significant rise from the 3.7GB/month average recorded in 2015.

The study predicts a tenfold increase in wireless data consumption across the globe, with the aforementioned increases in North America followed closely by Western Europe, which is predicted to have its average data usage jump from 1.8GB last year, to 18GB by 2021. Mobile users in Central Europe are expected to consume 11GB/month, while those in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and across most of Africa are expected to hit somewhere between 6GB and 7GB per month.

While Europe and North America are expected to see the highest rise in data consumption per capita, overall Asia, largely on the back of exponential mobile growth in China, will use the most mobile data overall, simply due to its larger population. In fact, Ericsson estimates that in China alone data traffic will rise from 2.1 exabytes per month today, to 20 exabytes per month by 2021.

As I mentioned, one of the key drivers in the growth of mobile data consumption will be video, which Ericsson forecasts will account for 70 percent of all mobile data in five years. While much of that will be dominated by streaming video content from the likes of YouTube, it will include embedded video displayed on social network sites as well.

Add to that the fact that mobile technology is already diversifying beyond smartphones, to include IoT devices, connected cars, and other consumer products (as well as the fact that smartphone adoption will increase as other global mobile markets develop and mature) and it’s easy to see how data consumption will continue to rise. The only I’m left with is just how much that data will cost.

But perhaps that only points to the fact that as the mobile world continues to evolve and develop, so to must legacy billing systems. There’s no way people will except a system wherein they have to pay hundreds of dollars every month to access an average of 22GB of data per month, which of course makes me wonder why we’re paying so much now for so much less…but I digress.

If Ericsson’s estimates are accurate (and based on current growth data, they are), I have to think that in order to accommodate this exponential growth in data usage, wireless networks themselves will have to undergo their own radical, exponential change, as given the sort of technology we have now (with spectrum availability, network speed and performance etc…) it simply doesn’t seem possible for people to consume that much data. I suppose such advances will have to be part and parcel with the forthcoming development of 5G.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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