Mobile Data Traffic Expected To Rise 40-Fold Over Next Five Years

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As smartphones like the iPhone and Android take over the mobile Web, the amount of data traffic going over cellular networks is expected to grow 40-fold over the next five years. UK firm Coda Research Consultancy forecasts that in the U.S. alone mobile handset data traffic will grow from 8 petabytes/month this year to 327 petabytes/month in 2015. That amounts to a 117 percent compound annual growth rate.

A lot of that data will come in the form of mobile Web browsing, with the biggest contributor expected to be mobile video. By 2015, mobile video will account for 68.5 percent of all mobile data usage in the U.S. (or 224 petabytes/month). Coda estimates that 95 million mobile handset subscribers in the U.S. will be watching video on their phones in five years out of a total of 158 million mobile internet users.

Mobile data revenues (not including SMS charges) are forecast to make up 87 percent of all data revenue for the carriers by 2015. But they will have a hard time keeping up with demand unless they adopt tiered pricing, predicts Coda co-founder Steve Smith. Consumers used to all-you-can-eat data access from their phones will find that unappealing. But carriers will have to figure out a way to pay for massive network upgrades. Coda estimates that if the carrier’s froze their networks today, they would reach 100 percent utilization at peak capacity by 2012, when 40 percent of phones will be smartphones.

The table below shows some more forecasts from Coda on the number of U.S. mobile Internet users and the percentage of mobile data traffic coming from smartphones versus feature phones:

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Mobile Internet users via handsets 84M 100M 113M 128M 145M 158M
Smartphone traffic as % of handset traffic 79% 90% 95% 97% 98% 98%
Feature phone traffic as % of handset traffic 21% 10% 5% 3% 2% 2%
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