Cisco study finds The Who was right!

We're Going Mobile, with portable devices outnumbering people by 2016

The number of mobile Internet - connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth by 2016, leading to an 18-fold increase in the amount of mobile data traffic and a 3X increase over fixed data traffic in the next five years.  These are the findings of Cisco's most recent Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, which was released earlier this week.

Mobile data traffic will increase at a compounded annual rate of 78% between 2011 and 2016, and just the amount of growth between 2015 and 2016 alone is three times the size of the entire mobile Internet in 2012, the Cisco study forecasts.

By 2016, there will be more than 8 billion handheld or personal mobile-ready devices and nearly 2 billion machine-to-machine connections, such as GPS systems in cars, asset tracking systems in shipping and manufacturing sectors, and medical applications for making patient records more readily available. That will outdo the number of people on the planet by then, which is expected to be 7.3 billion. But 90% of the global mobile data traffic will be driven by smartphones, laptops and other portable devices by 2016, the Cisco study finds.

Cellular will make up an increasing amount of that traffic. In 2011, fixed/Wi-Fi traffic was more than 18 times greater than cellular traffic; in 2015, fixed/Wi-Fi traffic will be more than five times greater than cellular traffic.

The Cisco forecast predicts an annual run rate of 130 exabytes of mobile data traffic, which is equivalent to 33 billion DVDs, 4.3 quadrillion MP3 music and audio files, and 813 quadrillion SMS text messages. Trends driving this growth are more streamed content vs. downloaded content; the sheer number of mobile devices and connections (10 billion); the increasing computational capability of mobile devices, which will then consume and generate more data traffic; faster mobile speeds; and more mobile video.

Streaming will grow mobile cloud traffic 28-fold between 2011 and 2016, or at a compounded annual rate of 95%, the Cisco study predicts. Traffic from tablets will grow 62X, the highest growth rate of any device tracked in the Cisco forecast.  The average mobile connection speed will increase from 315Kbps to almost 3Mbps by 2016, and the average smartphone connection speed will jump from 1.3Mbps to over 5Mbps by 2016; and video will comprise 71% of all mobile data traffic by 2016.

Regionally, the Middle East and Africa will have the highest mobile data traffic growth rate with a compounded annual growth rate of 104%. Asia-Pacific will grow 84%, followed by Central and Eastern Europe at 83%; Latin America at 79%; North America at 75%; and Western Europe at 68%.

The Cisco study also projects that 71% of all smartphones and tablets could be capable of connecting to an IPv6 mobile network by 2016. Thirty-nine percent of all global mobile devices could be IPv6-capable by 2016.

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