The amount of data traffic carried by 4G networks will exceed the amount on 3G networks by 2016, according to market intelligence firm ABI Research.

ABI forecasts that LTE networks will account for more than 20 per cent of data consumed on mobile networks by the end of this year, rising to two-thirds of traffic by 2018, following a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 82.2 per cent over the five year period.

The growth is attributed to aggressive deployment of LTE networks by operators and the increasing availability of smartphones and tablets supporting LTE.

These trends are leading to a significant increase in video streaming by consumers, which will drive the increase in data volume. ABI forecasts that annual video consumption will increase by a CAGR of 60.6 per cent, to pass 100 Exabytes by 2018.

Revenue generated from data (not including SMS), will increase at a CAGR of 7.9 per cent between 2013 and 2018. But ABI’s Jake Saunders said voice service revenue will still account for 52.7 per cent of network revenue in 2018, meaning operators should not lose sight of the segment and continue to improve the quality of voice services.

ABI also compared the benefits of FDD-LTE and TD-LTE, finding that the latter has a significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

Spectrum for use with TD-LTE has been 44 per cent cheaper than for FDD-LTE networks, according to ABI. With equipment for both LTE variants costing a similar amount, the organisation calculated that the TCO of a TD-LTE network is 13 per cent lower than FDD-LTE.