Mobile data traffic to increase x 8 by 2020


Smartphone data traffic is set to multiply eight times by 2020 according to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report. The report, which suggests that 5G will have made an appearance by the end of the decade, looks at the growth in smartphone adoption and its impact on data consumption.

Mobile broadband

Image courtesy of Ericsson Images

Mobile subscriptions

Mobile subscriptions are currently experiencing a 6% year-on-year growth, with 400 million net additions between 2013 and 2014. In the third quarter of 2014 alone there were 110 million new mobile subscriptions. It is predicted that there will be 9.5 billion active mobile subscriptions by 2020 and that 90% of people over the age of six will own a mobile.

Smartphones are driving this surge, with these devices accounting for 65-70% of all mobile phones sold. By 2020 there will be 6.1 billion smartphones in use and the number of smartphone subscriptions will exceed those for basic phones as they become increasingly affordable in developing markets. While there are only currently 2.9 billion mobile broadband subscriptions, this figure will increase to 8.4 billion by the end of the decade, meaning that 90% of all mobile subscriptions will be mobile broadband subscriptions. LTE continues to grow strongly and has reached 350 million subscriptions with 50 million new subscriptions in the third quarter of 2014 alone showing that uptake is accelerating.

Smartphone data traffic

In the third quarter of 2014, there was a 60% year-on-year growth in mobile data traffic, and by 2020 smartphone traffic is expected to have multiplied by eight. This growth is being driven by two factors:

  1. Increased uptake of subscriptions
  2. Increased average data usage per subscriber
mobile data

Image courtesy of Ericsson Images

Video is the fastest growing traffic segment, with video streaming using services such as YouTube growing especially quickly. The popularity of video is leading to the development of devices with larger screens, and better picture quality, which in turn closes the loop by driving higher usage of mobile devices for video viewing. Mobile video traffic is expected to increase ten times between 2014 and 2020, and by the end of the decade mobile video will account for 50% of all mobile data consumed. Not surprisingly the proportion of video traffic on 4G dominated networks is significantly higher than on 2G and 3G dominated networks.

Appearance of 5G

The Ericsson report indicates that 5G will be commercially deployed before 2020. It is expected that uptake of 5G will be more rapid than uptake of 4G, just as uptake of 4G was quicker than uptake of 3G. The crucial element of 5G is that it won’t just be connecting people but will also be connecting objects as part of the Internet of Things.

According to the report “5G will bring together the evolved versions of existing radio-access, cloud and core technologies with some new complementary ones. It will be able to cater for thousands of new use cases, as well as more traffic, more devices and more types of devices – even those with different operating requirements. The emergence of 5G will bring much more than performance enhancements.”