Cisco Predicts Seven-Fold U.S. Mobile Data Traffic Increase Through 2019

U.S. mobile data traffic is expected to increase seven-fold through 2019, driven by video content, which is expected to account for more than three-quarters of mobile traffic by then, Cisco Systems, Inc., said today in its latest Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.

Globally, mobile data traffic is forecast to jump 10-fold by 2019, Cisco predicted.

Company officials and CTIA said the continued growing demand for mobile data highlights the importance of the FCC and others in the U.S. government working to free up additional licensed spectrum.  Although still significant, the expected increases in mobile data traffic have slowed in recent years. For example, last year Cisco forecast an eight-fold increase between 2013 and 2018 (TRDaily, Feb. 5, 2014) and the previous year it projected a 13-fold increase between 2012 and 2017.

Looking at other data from Cisco’s latest report, the company projects that the mature U.S. market will have 269 million mobile users by 2019 (up from 261 million last year), and that the number of connections will jump from 401 million to just more than 1 billion. Network speeds are expected to increase during that period from 2.6 megabits per second to 6.1 Mbps, while the percentage of video as part of overall data traffic will increase from 60% to more than 75%.

Cisco also said that machine-to-machine devices will be the largest U.S. mobile device share by 2019, reaching nearly 60% of the total.  It also said that globally, the number of connected wearable devices will grow five-fold, and that 7% will have embedded cellular connectivity in 2019.  Global traffic for connected wearable devices is expected to jump 18-fold, Cisco said, to 9.1% of overall traffic.

The report also predicted that by 2019, 54% of global mobile traffic will be offloaded onto Wi-Fi and other small cell networks, up from 46% today. Those percentages will increase in the U.S. from 57% to 66%, the report said.

Mary Brown, director-government affairs for Cisco, told TRDaily that in light of the data demand, the FCC’s incentive auction and other efforts to free up more licensed spectrum are crucial. She noted that while some people have called for a longer break between the AWS (advanced wireless services)-3 and incentive auctions, she said Cisco doesn’t have a position on how long it should be. “But we can see from the data, that there is going to be … a continued push for licensed spectrum going forward,” Ms. Brown added.

Bob Pepper, Cisco’s vice president-global technology policy, agreed that there is a need for more licensed frequencies. He also said greater sharing of the 5 gigahertz band for Wi-Fi usage is also necessary, including for offloading from wide-area networks. Higher frequency bands also are ideal to handle machine-to-machine connections, which are “low data rate, bursty connections,” he said.

In response to the Cisco report, Scott Bergmann, VP-regulatory affairs for CTIA, said, “Cisco’s data have consistently highlighted Americans’ current and future demand for mobile-connected lives, which only underscores the importance of freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband. More exclusive-use spectrum will mean faster and more robust wireless networks, as well as continued investment and economic growth.”

Cisco’s forecast validates the importance of meeting carriers’ spectrum needs through the use of denser networks, according to Jonathan Adelstein, president and chief executive officer of PCIA. “Even under the most optimistic scenarios, the amount of new spectrum coming on line in the next five years is nowhere near enough to accommodate the explosive growth rates Cisco predicts,” he said. “This underscores the essential role that densification of wireless infrastructure will play in meeting wireless data demand.”- Paul Kirby,