INSIGHT: What's driving mobile data growth?

INSIGHT: What's driving mobile data growth?

“The winners will be those providers best able to satisfy consumers' demand for high data use, while maintaining their margins.”

Mobile data traffic will continue to show double-digit growth in 2015, with traffic expected to grow 59 percent this year alone.

The reason? “Newer and faster networks, a rise in the number of users of these networks, and more affordable 3G and 4G handsets will help to increase data traffic,” says Jessica Ekholm, research director, Gartner.

However, according to Ekholm, the key driver of data growth on a global scale is mobile apps, particularly mobile video apps.

“Although network speed and reliability are priorities for many mobile customers, it is really apps and content that are driving traffic volumes as people increasingly chat to friends and family, watch videos on the move, and listen to streamed music,” adds Ekholm, sharing her thoughts on what is driving the growth in mobile data traffic, and how communications service providers (CSPs) and mobile app developers will lead the market.

Ahead of Mobile World Congress 2015, which will be held on March 2-5 in Barcelona, Ekholm predicts that although 4G service prices are likely to fall to 3G levels to make them more affordable, 3G networks will continue to fuel worldwide data growth during the next five years.

“We predict that, in 2018, half of North American mobile connections will use 4G networks, but in the Middle East and Africa 4G users will amount to only 3.5 percent of the region's total,” she says.

“We expect 3G connections to grow by 45.7 percent globally in 2015. This double-digit growth shows the longevity and importance of 3G networks.”

The availability of more affordable 4G handsets is also fuelling growth in data traffic, adds Ekholm, who claims the increase in affordable 4G-enabled handsets and 4G services, which are becoming priced on par with 3G services, will collectively boost traffic.

“We predict that, by 2018, 4G users will generate 46 percent of all mobile data traffic,” she adds.

“This is because, by 2018, each 4G smartphone will use nearly 5.5GB of data per month, which is three times more than a 3G smartphone.”

Mobile apps…

Of the mobile apps expected to drive double-digit growth over the next few years, Ekholm believes mobile video is by far the biggest driver of mobile data.

“Data we have collected from various mobile providers suggests that mobile video is generating 50 percent of all mobile data,” she explains.

“We expect video streaming to account for over 60 percent of mobile data traffic in 2018, as consumers increase the number of videos they watch and upload.

“Fast, uninterrupted, video experiences encourage people to increase their video usage.”

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