LIVE FROM HUAWEI GLOBAL MOBILE BROADBAND FORUM 2015, HONG KONG: Global mobile broadband traffic is expanding exponentially, but that growth is not distributed evenly, complicating operators’ plans as they allocate resources to keep up with rising usage.

David Wang (pictured), Huawei president of wireless networks, speaking at the event yesterday afternoon, said in general 20 per cent of locations generate about 80 per cent of data traffic.

While usage differs widely within countries, there is a huge variation in site density between regions, he said. The per capita site ratio (total sites/population) is twice as high in China’s largest cities compared with Europe. The ratio is 2,034 in Shenzhen, 1,036 in Europe, 592 across Asia and 266 in Africa.

The mobile resources index (measuring per capita use of spectrum per site/population) puts Japan on top with a score of 713 vs just 32 in Kenya. Turkey and the Philippines are in the middle, with an average index score of 129.

And the difference in site density between major cities also differs greatly. Sites are an average of 142 metres apart in Seoul, but 952 metres apart in Vancouver. Hong Kong has the second highest density, with sites spaced every 162 metres. In London and Tokyo they are about 325 metres apart on average.

As mobile broadband uptake climbs (Huawei is targeting 6.7 billion connections by 2020), Wang said that operators will need to double the number of macro cell sites from five million to ten million and boost spectrum per site from the current 120MHz to 300MHz.

“Operators will need to on average double their spectrum resources,” he warned.

Video on demand
A common theme at the forum has been the rapidly changing behaviour of users as they take advantage of the freedom that mobility gives them.

In the US the time spent watching video on smartphones last year surpassed the time spent viewing TV (51 per cent vs 49 per cent), Wang said. More than half (55 per cent) of viewing time on Chinese video site Youku was via smartphone, compared with 27 per cent on laptops and 18 per cent on PCs.

“Mobile is becoming the first choice for watching video and more and more are starting from text,” he said. Social networking is the key driver of mobile video usage. In Q1 video views increased fourfold from six months ago to four billion, with 53 per cent of the total coming from shares and 65 per cent mobile.

Mobile video usage now accounts for 70-80 per cent of total data traffic, depending on the country.

Much of that video consumption is indoors. Huawei forecasts indoor traffic to increase from 240MB per month per user this year to 8GB per month per user by 2020.