Mobile traffic by application category

Mobile traffic is expected to grow by 31 percent annually between 2019 and 2025. Continuing recent trends, most of this will come from video traffic.

Key findings

  • Video is expected to continue to be the primary contributor to mobile traffic growth, growing from 63 percent in 2019 to reach 76 percent by 2025.
  • Although 480p is estimated to be the most common resolution for video streaming, as smartphones and networks improve, streaming in HD (720p) and Full HD (1080p) is becoming more common.

Video traffic in mobile networks is forecast to grow by around 30 percent annually up to 2025. It will account for nearly three-quarters of mobile data traffic, which is up from just over 60 percent in 2019. Mobile video traffic growth is driven by the increase of embedded video in many online applications, growth of video-on-demand (VoD) streaming services in terms of both subscribers and viewing time per subscriber, and the evolution towards higher screen resolutions on smart devices. All of these factors are influenced by the increasing penetration of video-capable smart devices. Social network traffic is also expected to rise by around 20 percent annually over the next 6 years. However, its relative share of traffic will decline from 10 percent in 2019 to around 8 percent in 2025, because of the stronger growth of video.1

Immersive formats contribute to traffic growth

Users are increasingly streaming and sharing video. The most common resolution for video streamed over cellular networks is estimated to be 480p (varying from network to network). With smartphones and networks improving constantly, streaming in HD (720p) and Full HD (1080p) is becoming more common. More immersive media formats and applications are expected to become a significant factor contributing to mobile data traffic growth, as 5G networks will provide the performance needed for a good user experience. For example, watching a streamed e-sports event in multi-view would consume about 7GB per hour, while a high-quality AR/VR stream with a media (bit) rate of 25Mbps would consume as much as 12GB per hour.

Figure 16: Mobile traffic by application category per month (percent)

Figure 16: Mobile traffic by application category per month (percent)

Main drivers for video traffic growth

  • Video is part of most online content (news, ads, social media, etc.)
  • Video sharing services
  • Video streaming services
  • Changing user behavior – video being consumed anywhere, any time
  • Increased segment penetration, not just early adopters
  • Evolving devices with larger screens and higher resolutions
  • Increased network performance through evolved 4G deployments
  • Emerging immersive media formats and applications 2019 (HD/UHD, 360-degree video, AR, VR)

Calculate the traffic impact of different application categories

Explore the relationship between the usage of various app types and monthly traffic per subscription. Fill in your app usage figures and benchmark the resulting data consumption against six pre-set data consumption profiles.

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1 Traffic from embedded video in web browsing and social media is included in the application category “Video”