{ Markettagged:True , MatchedLanguageCode:True }

Mobile data traffic outlook

In 2024, 5G networks will carry 35 percent of mobile data traffic globally.


Key findings

  • In 2024, 5G networks will carry 35 percent of mobile data traffic globally.
  • Total mobile data traffic continues to rise globally, and is predicted to reach 131 exabytes (EB) per month by the end of 2024.
  • The India region has the highest average monthly usage per smartphone, reaching 9.8 gigabytes by the end of 2018.
  • The Middle East and Africa region is expected to have the highest growth rate during the forecast period.

Total mobile data traffic continues to increase globally and is predicted to reach 131 exabytes (EB) per month by the end of 2024. This means a 30 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2018 and 2024. This is slightly lower than previously reported and comes as a result of the strong growth seen in 2018.

However, this is not evenly distributed, as we anticipate large variations in traffic growth across regions. Populous markets that are early with 5G are likely to lead in traffic growth over the forecast period. By 2024, we expect that 35 percent of total mobile data traffic will be carried by 5G networks. Our 5G traffic forecast does not include traffic generated by fixed wireless access (FWA) services, as it is not yet possible to estimate this traffic. However, as FWA is one of the early use cases planned for 5G in some regions, it could significantly impact the overall traffic, depending on market uptake.

Smartphones continue to generate most of the mobile data traffic – close to 90 percent today and projected to reach 95 percent at the end of 2024. In this forecast period, this means that only new or evolved smartphone-based services are likely to have the ability to significantly affect the global traffic growth curve.

Global mobile data traffic (EB per month)

India region has the highest average usage per smartphone

India has the highest average monthly usage, reaching 9.8 gigabytes (GB) by the end of 2018. Increased numbers of LTE subscriptions, attractive data plans being offered by service providers and young people's changing video viewing habits have driven monthly usage growth.

In North East Asia, traffic per smartphone also grew strongly during 2018, and the region has the second-highest monthly usage, averaging 7.1GB. Attractive data plans, as well as innovative mobile apps and content, have pushed up monthly mobile data usage, particularly in China.

During 2018, we have seen a slightly slower traffic growth in North America than anticipated. Nevertheless, the average usage of mobile data traffic is expected to reach 39GB per month per smartphone by 2024. This will be driven by the financial strength of consumers, fast deployment of 5G with a high proportion of subscriptions at the end of the forecast period, and also innovative apps and content.

Globally, the increase in monthly mobile data traffic per smartphone can mainly be attributed to three drivers: improved device capabilities, more affordable data plans and an increase in data-intensive content.

Mobile data traffic per smartphone (GB per month)

The largest share of mobile data traffic is in North East Asia

North East Asia is the world’s most populous region and, as such, has the largest share of global mobile data traffic. In 2024, total mobile data traffic in the region is estimated to reach 39EB per month, equaling 30 percent of the world total. The rapid growth in mobile broadband subscriptions is expected to continue, with China alone set to add around 190 million mobile broadband subscriptions between 2018 and 2024. This growth, together with increased usage per smartphone, will drive total mobile data traffic up to 30EB per month in China.

The Middle East and Africa region is expected to have the highest growth rate during the forecast period, growing total mobile data traffic by eight times between 2018 and 2024. Smartphone subscriptions are projected to almost double, increasing penetration from 46 to 63 percent of all mobile subscriptions. In 2024, total monthly mobile data traffic is expected to reach 15EB in the region.

In Latin America, traffic is predicted to increase by a factor of 6 between 2018 and 2024, taking it to 8.9EB per month. The traffic growth is driven by broader coverage and adoption of LTE within the region, linked with a 16 percent rise in smartphone subscriptions and increases in average data usage per smartphone from 3.1GB to 18GB per month.

In Central and Eastern Europe, traffic is predicted to grow by a factor of 6 from 1.2EB to 7.4EB per month during the forecast period. This growth is fueled by the migration from 3G to 4G, coupled with a 46 percent growth in the number of smartphone subscriptions. Over the forecast period, the monthly traffic per smartphone is expected to increase from 4.5GB to 19GB.

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. The increased consumption of data-intensive services, such as video, and new applications, including virtual reality and augmented reality, are expected to become more prevalent with the introduction of 5G during the forecast period. With this, mobile data traffic is expected to reach 14EB per month in North America as well as in Western Europe by 2024.

Regional mobile data traffic (EB per month)