Smartphone video traffic will explode, report says

A new report says video and social networks will be the future leading mobile traffic drivers.

byod mobile smartphones tablets devices
Credit: Thinkstock

While many of us have taken to the concept of video over mobile networks on smartphones, you could argue that it's been more of a "yeah, really cool, I like that idea" flirtation, rather than a "Hey, when's trash day?" and "Anyone know how to get a 55-inch TV in a garbage can?" kind of amour.

Just how many people are happy with stuttering, low-definition images on a pokey smartphone screen, one could ask? I for one am not watching a smartphone screen on an expensive, spotty mobile network in lieu of Wi-Fi media delivery via a big screen when I can help it.

And has there been any indication that the non-tech segment of the population thinks differently? Is it not all the same inquisitive dabbling?

Mobile equipment maker Ericsson reckons it has some answers, predicting mobile data to take off, largely propelled by video.

Video growth

Sweden-based Ericsson says in its report that mobile video will grow around 45% annually through 2020, and that total mobile video traffic in the next six years will be 17 times that of the last six years.

By 2020, 55% of all mobile data traffic will be video. Right now, 40% to 60% of video traffic, depending on market, comes from YouTube.

Factors pushing this growth include more video-enabled devices, bigger screens, and improving image quality. Apps are displacing web browsers overall.

031115 ericsson chart Ericsson

Furthermore, as video is found within more online content, like news ads and social media, then video traffic will grow. Sharing via sites like Twitter will also drive that video growth, the report says.

Plus, common predictions of cord-cutting will prove correct, and having studied nine important markets around the world, the report suggests a shift in consumer viewing in favor of streaming services rather than broadcast TV.

Better mobile networks

The introduction of 4G services is one element that has helped kick-start this media viewing change, Ericsson says. A global transition to LTE is currently underway.

Notably, the report prophesizes that future 5G will have a faster uptake than 4G, which in turn had a faster uptake than 3G.

The 5G prediction takes the Internet of Things (IoT) into account. In the IoT, "things" will also require mobile connections, rather than solely people, as mobile networks are predominantly catering to today.

Numbers of phones

Of course, the sheer number of smartphones helps create these predictions and statistics.

Ericsson forecasts 8.4 billion mobile broadband subscriptions in use by 2020, and 90% of all people over the age of six will have a mobile phone. That's up from 2.9 billion mobile broadband users in 2014.

The general increase in smartphone sales over older-tech feature phones sales also plays a role in media consumption. Basic phones are on the way out, and Ericsson expects smartphone subscriptions to exceed basic phone subscriptions globally by 2016.

Where the numbers come from

Ericsson says its February 2015 interim Mobility Report uses data traffic measurements, live network monitoring and analysis, along with internal forecasts and other "relevant studies" to compile the forecast.

Bear in mind that Ericsson is a major mobile network equipment maker, so one would expect it to be bullish in matters of mobile subscription growth and traffic. However, its position does place it well for aggregating data from its own mobile networks.

And looking at some of the numbers, it's hard not to join in with the enthusiasm. During 2014 alone, 800 million smartphone subscriptions were added globally.

From the inception of today's smartphone in 2007, it took five years to hit the first billion subscriptions in 2012. It then took less than two years to reach the second billion.

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