Future mobile data usage and traffic growth

In 2022, monthly mobile data traffic per active smartphone in North America will reach 25 GB

Key highlights

  • Between 2016 and 2022, the traffic generated by smartphones will increase by 10 times
  • By 2022, there will be 12 times more mobile data traffic in Central & Eastern Europe and Middle East & Africa (CEMA)
Data traffic per smartphone GB per month

Monthly data traffic per smartphone continues to increase in all regions, even though there are large differences in data consumption patterns between networks, markets and subscriber segments. North America has the highest usage, with 5.1 GB per month per active smartphone expected by the end of this year. This is an increase of almost 40 percent since the end of 2015, and is almost twice as high as the region with the second highest usage, Western Europe, which is set to reach 2.7 GB per month per smartphone by the end of 2016.

In 2022, North America will still be the region with the highest monthly usage (25 GB), but other regions will be catching up. Factors that will drive usage include an increase in the number of LTE subscriptions, improved device capabilities and more attractive data plans, as well as an increase in data-intensive content. 

Global mobile traffic ExaBytes per month

Total mobile data traffic is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 45 percent

A future mobile trend is that traffic generated by smartphones will dominate even more than it does today. Between 2016 and 2022, smartphone traffic is expected to increase by 10 times and total mobile traffic for all devices by 8 times. By the end of this period, more than 90 percent of mobile data traffic will come from smartphones.

Mobile data traffic by region

As the most populous region, Asia Pacific has the largest share of mobile data traffic. This is likely to continue into 2022, with a rapid growth in mobile broadband subscriptions expected in the region. China alone is set to add 440 million mobile broadband subscriptions between the end of 2016 and 2022.

The level of mobile broadband maturity still varies greatly between countries in Asia Pacific. For instance, South Korea and Japan deployed LTE early with fast uptake, and markets like Singapore and Hong Kong are highly advanced. In less developed countries, GSM is still the dominant technology, and insufficient network quality and the cost of data subscriptions remain barriers to higher mobile data consumption.

The region Central & Eastern Europe and Middle East & Africa (CEMA) will experience a twelvefold increase in mobile data traffic up to 2022, driven by a strong growth in smartphone subscriptions and demand for data-intensive applications like video.

Global mobile data traffic ExaBytes per month

North America and Western Europe currently have a larger share of total traffic volume than their subscription numbers imply. This is due to high penetration of high-end user devices and well built-out WCDMA and LTE networks, complemented with affordable packages of large data volumes. This leads to higher data usage per subscription. 

Related content

Mobile traffic statistics Q3 2016

Data traffic grew 50 percent between Q3 2015 and Q3 2016.

Mobile technology trends: traffic by application category

Video will account for around 75 percent of all data traffic by 2022.

Future of mobile subscriptions

Mobile broadband will account for 90 percent of all subscriptions by the end of 2022.

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