{ Markettagged:True , MatchedLanguageCode:True }

Mobile data traffic growth outlook

In 2023, 20 percent of mobile data traffic will be carried by 5G networks.


Key findings

  • In 2023, 20 percent of mobile data traffic will be carried by 5G networks.
  • North America has the highest monthly usage of mobile data per smartphone at 7.2 gigabytes (GB), anticipated to increase to 49GB in 2023.
  • Total mobile data traffic is expected to increase by nearly eight times by the end of 2023.
  • In 2023, 95 percent of total mobile data traffic is expected to be generated by smartphones, increasing from 85 percent today.
  • North East Asia has the largest share of mobile data traffic – set to reach 25EB per month in 2023.

Monthly mobile data traffic per smartphone continues to increase in all regions. North America has the highest usage, reaching 7.2 gigabytes (GB) at the end of 2017. This figure is expected to rise to 49GB by the end of 2023. Western Europe has the second highest mobile data usage. At the end of 2017, 4GB per month per smartphone was consumed, and this figure is forecast to reach 25GB by the end of 2023.

Globally, factors that drive higher usage include improved device capabilities and more affordable data plans, as well as an increase in data-intensive content. As virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies are more widely adopted, content will be even more data intensive.

Total mobile data traffic is expected to increase by nearly eight times

Total mobile data traffic is forecast to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 43 percent, reaching close to 107 exabytes (EB) per month by the end of 2023. At that time, it is expected that 20 percent of mobile data traffic worldwide will be carried by 5G networks. This is 1.5 times more than the total of 4G/3G/2G traffic today. In regions with early 5G deployment, the 5G share of traffic will be higher than 20 percent.

Currently, the 5G traffic forecast does not include traffic generated by fixed wireless access (FWA) services. However, as FWA is one of the early use cases planned for 5G in some regions, it could have a significant impact on the forecast figures, depending on market uptake of the service.

Today, close to 85 percent of total mobile data traffic is generated by smartphones. This figure is expected to reach 95 percent by the end of 2023.

Mobile data traffic per active smartphone (gigabytes per month)
Mobile data traffic per active smartphone (gigabytes per month)
Regional mobile data traffic (exabytes per month)

North East Asia is set to retain the largest share of global mobile data traffic

North East Asia is the most populous region and as such has the largest share of global mobile data traffic – 27 percent at the end of 2017. This will continue into 2023, when total mobile data traffic in the region is forecast to reach 25EB per month. The rapid growth in mobile broadband subscriptions in North East Asia is expected to continue. China alone is set to add around 335 million mobile broadband subscriptions by the end of 2023, driving data traffic up to 18EB per month in the country.

In India, the total monthly mobile data traffic was 1.9EB at the end of 2017, driven by the strong growth in the number of LTE subscriptions. In 2023, the total traffic is expected to have increased by 5 times to reach 10EB.

An 11 times increase in mobile data traffic is expected in the Middle East and Africa during the forecast period, driven by an increase in smartphone penetration and investments in network performance. In 2023, total monthly mobile data traffic will reach close to 14EB in the region, representing the highest growth rate globally.

North America and Western Europe have a larger share of the total traffic volume than subscription numbers imply. This is due to well built-out LTE networks and high penetration of high-end user devices, complemented with affordable packages offering large volumes of data. This combination leads to high data usage per subscription. With increased consumption of broadband-intensive services, such as video, and new applications like VR and AR, total mobile data traffic is expected to exceed 19EB per month in North America and 11EB per month in Western Europe in 2023.


Monthly mobile data traffic in North East Asia is set to reach 25EB in 2023.