Mobile Video is Still Very Much a Greenfield Opportunity

CiscoIf you were to listen to the doom-mongers who fixate on the amount of VC money flowing into ad tech and the inevitable consolidation of the ecosystem, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that there are still huge greenfield opportunities on the horizon for our industry. One of those areas is mobile video, which as Cisco’s Visual Networking Index highlights, will continue to see staggering growth for the next five years.

This report presents some of the major global mobile data traffic projections and growth trends, looking mainly at rates of growth between 2016 and 2021.

  • Mobile video traffic accounted for 60 percent of total mobile data traffic in 2016.
  • More than three quarters of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2021. Mobile video will increase 9-fold between 2016 and 2021, accounting for 78 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of the forecast period.
  • Global mobile data traffic grew 63 percent in 2016. Global mobile data traffic reached 7.2 exabytes per month at the end of 2016, up from 4.4 exabytes per month at the end of 2015. (One exabyte is equivalent to one billion gigabytes, and one thousand petabytes.)

    Global Mobile Data Traffic


  • China’s mobile traffic will surpass that of the United States by the end of 2017. China’s mobile traffic will reach 1.9 exabytes per month by the end of 2017, and mobile traffic in the United States will reach 1.6 exabytes per month.
  • Mobile data traffic has grown 18-fold over the past 5 years. Mobile networks carried 400 petabytes per month in 2011.
  • Fourth-generation (4G) traffic accounted for 69% of mobile traffic in 2016. Although 4G connections represented only 26 percent of mobile connections in 2016, they already accounted for 69 percent of mobile data traffic, while 3G connections represented 33 percent of mobile connections and 24 percent of the traffic. In 2016, a 4G connection generated four times more traffic on average than a 3G connection.
  • Almost half a billion (429 million) mobile devices and connections were added in 2016. Smartphones accounted for most of that growth, followed by M2M modules. Global mobile devices and connections in 2016 grew to 8.0 billion, up from 7.6 billion in 2015.
  • The top 1 percent of mobile data subscribers generated 6 percent of mobile data traffic, down from 8 percent in 2015 and 52 percent in 2010. According to a mobile data usage study conducted by Cisco, the top 20 percent of mobile users generated 56 percent of mobile data traffic, and the top 1 percent generated 6 percent.
  • Globally, there were 325 million wearable devices (a sub-segment of the machine-to-machine [M2M] category) in 2016. Of these, 11 million wearables had embedded cellular connections.
  • In 2016, the number of mobile-connected tablets increased 26% to 184 million, and the number of mobile-connected PCs increased 8% to 136 million. In 2016, the average mobile data traffic per PC/Tablet was 3,392 MB per month, compared to 1,614 MB per month per smartphone..
  • The average mobile connection speed will surpass 20 Mbps by 2021.
  • Global mobile data traffic will increase sevenfold between 2016 and 2021. Mobile data traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 47 percent from 2016 to 2021, reaching 49.0 exabytes per month by 2021.
  • By 2021 there will be 1.5 mobile devices per capita. There will be 11.6 billion mobile-connected devices by 2021, including M2M modules—exceeding the world’s projected population at that time (7.8 billion).
  • Mobile network connection speeds will increase threefold by 2021. The average mobile network connection speed (6.8 Mbps in 2016) will reach 20.4 megabits per second (Mbps) by 2021.
  • By 2021, 5G will be 0.2 percent of connections (25 million), but 1.5 percent of total traffic. By 2021, a 5G connection will generate 4.7 times more traffic than the average 4G connection..
  • The Middle East and Africa will have the strongest mobile data traffic growth of any region with a 65 percent CAGR. This region will be followed by Asia Pacific at 49 percent and Latin America at 45 percent.

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