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Cisco Predicts Big Jump in Mobile Data Traffic
By Jef Cozza
Posted: February 7, 2017 10:41am PST

M2M connections will represent 29 percent (3.3 billion) of total mobile connections, up from 5 percent (780 million) in 2016. M2M will be the fastest growing mobile connection type as global IoT applications continue to gain traction in consumer and business environments, according to Cisco.

Over the next five years, mobile phone use is expected to outpace the use of bank accounts, running water and landlines, according to the 11th annual Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.

Strong growth in mobile users, smartphones and Internet of Things (IoT) connections as well as network speed improvements and mobile video consumption are projected to increase mobile data traffic seven-fold over the next five years, according to Cisco.

An explosion of mobile applications and adoption of mobile connectivity by end users is fueling the growth of 4G technology, which will soon be followed by 5G deployments, the report noted. Cisco said it anticipates large-scale deployments of 5G infrastructures to begin by 2020.

5G Comes into Its Own

"Mobile carriers will need the innovative speed, low latency, and dynamic provisioning capabilities that 5G networks are expected to deliver to address not just increasing subscriber demands but also new services trends across mobile, residential, and business markets," the company said today in a statement.

Cisco said that that 5G will account for 1.5 percent of total mobile data traffic by 2021, and will generate 4.7 times more traffic than the average 4G connection and 10.7 times more traffic than the average 3G connection.

"With the proliferation of IoT, live mobile video, augmented and virtual reality applications, and more innovative experiences for consumer and business users alike, 5G technology will have significant relevance not just for mobility but rather for networking as a whole," said Doug Webster, vice president of service provider marketing, in the statement.

Consequently, broader and more extensive architectural transformations involving programmability and automation will also be necessary to support the capabilities 5G enables, as well as address today's demands and the extensive possibilities on the horizon, he added.

Mobile To Represent One-Fifth of IP Traffic

The company listed several milestones in its report that it expects the industry to reach by 2021. Among these predictions, Cisco said mobile data traffic is expected to represent as much as 20 percent of total IP traffic, up from just eight percent of total IP traffic in 2016.

In addition, the company predicts that the number of mobile devices in use will reach 1.5 per capita by 2021, with nearly 12 billion mobile-connected devices (up from 8 billion and 1.1 per capita in 2016), including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules.

M2M connections will represent 29 percent (3.3 billion) of total mobile connections, up from 5 percent (780 million) in 2016. M2M will be the fastest growing mobile connection type as global IoT applications continue to gain traction in consumer and business environments, according to Cisco.

4G data networks will support 58 percent of total mobile connections by 2021, while the total number of smartphones, including phablets, will represent more than 50 percent of global devices and connections (6.2 billion), up from 3.6 billion in 2016. Meanwhile, users can expect to see mobile network connection speeds increase threefold from 6.8 Mbps (megabits per second) in 2016 to 20.4 Mbps by 2021.

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