Mobile traffic outlook

The June 2017 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report forecasts that, in 2022, monthly mobile data traffic per active smartphone in North America will reach 26 GB.

Key highlights

  • Total mobile data traffic is expected to rise at a CAGR of 42% from the end of 2016 to the end of 2022
  • By 2022, more than 90% of mobile data traffic will come from smartphones
  • In 2022, there will be 11X more mobile data traffic in Central and Eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa

Monthly data traffic per smartphone continues to increase in all regions, despite large differences in data consumption patterns between networks, markets and subscriber segments. North America has the highest usage and traffic is expected to reach 6.9 GB per month per active smartphone by the end of 2017. This is almost twice as high as Western Europe – the region with the second highest usage – where it is set to reach 3.9 GB per month per smartphone by the end of 2017.

In 2022, North America will still be the region with the highest monthly usage at 26 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.

Graph: Data traffic per active smartphone

Continued growth in mobile data traffic

Going forwards, traffic generated by smartphones will dominate even more than it does today. Between the end of 2016 and 2022, smartphone traffic is expected to increase by nine times, and total mobile traffic for all devices by eight times. By the end of the forecast period, more than 90 percent of mobile data traffic will come from smartphones.

Graph: Global mobile traffic

As the most populous region, Asia Pacific has the largest share of mobile data traffic. This will continue into 2022, when the total mobile traffic in the region is expected to exceed 30 ExaBytes (EB). A rapid growth in mobile broadband subscriptions is expected, with China alone set to add 495 million mobile broadband subscriptions between the end of 2016 and 2022.

Graph: Mobile data traffic by region

The level of mobile broadband maturity still varies greatly between countries in Asia Pacific. For instance, South Korea and Japan engaged in early deployment of LTE with a fast uptake, and markets like Singapore and Hong Kong are also 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.

In 2022, there will be eleven times more mobile data traffic in Central and Eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa (CEMA)

The region spanning Central and Eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa (CEMA) will experience an elevenfold increase in mobile data traffic up to the end of 2022. This is driven by a strong growth in LTE and smartphone subscriptions, as well as a demand for data-intensive applications like video.

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

Graph: Global mobile data traffic