Global mobile data speeds and traffic levels are set to dramatically increase by 2021, driven by the use of 4G and launch of 5G services, Cisco forecasted.
In its latest annual trends forecast, the company said average global connection speeds would hit 20.4Mbp/s in 2021, up from 6.8Mbp/s in 2016.
The increase will be driven by growing availability and use of 4G, which is tipped to become the dominant technology within four years accounting for 79 per cent of all mobile traffic and 58 per cent of all mobile connections – up from 26 per cent of connections in 2016.
Cisco said 5G would become a contributing factor in 2020 and would account for 1.5 per cent of all mobile data traffic by 2021. The new technology is forecast to generate 4.7 times more data than the average 4G connection, and 10.7 times more traffic than 3G.
Its Cisco Visual Networking Index predicted a sevenfold increase in global mobile data traffic by 2021 with the fastest growth seen in the Middle East and Africa, where the company expects to see a twelvefold increase on the levels seen last year.
The slowest levels of growth are expected to be in Western Europe and North America – but even these regions are anticipated to record sixfold and fivefold increases respectively.
Driven by devices
This rapid increase in mobile data use is expected to be driven by improvements in infrastructure, wider proliferation of smartphones and developments of new technological use cases.
Cisco pointed to the growth of mobile video – expected to increase by 770 per cent over the forecast period – development of AR and VR technology, and use of IoT applications as key trends for the next four years.
In terms of device growth, the company said 5.5 billion people around the world would have a mobile phone by 2021, with 6.2 billion smartphones and phablets in use – up from 3.6 billion last year. This makes up over 50 per cent of all connected devices.
M2M connections are expected to represent 29 per cent of all mobile connections. Wearables are also highlighted as a growth area, with 929 million expected to be used globally in 2021. Of these, 69 million are expected to have an embedded cellular connection.
Discussing the forecast data, Cisco VP service provider marketing Doug Webster said: “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.”
“As a result, broader and more extensive architectural transformations involving programmability and automation will also be needed to support the capabilities 5G enables, and to address not just today’s demands but also the extensive possibilities on the horizon.”