Mobile network traffic Q1 2020

Mobile network data traffic grew 56 percent between Q1 2019 and Q1 2020.

Key findings

  • Following a remarkable peak in 2018 and the first half of 2019, network traffic growth rates have returned to a more normal level.
  • The quarter-on-quarter growth for Q1 2020 was 14 percent.
  • An increase in home working due to COVID-19 restrictions geographically shifted daytime traffic loads from city centers to residential areas.

Following the extraordinary peak in traffic growth seen in 2018 and the first part of 2019, the growth rate has returned to a more normal level. The quarter-on-quarter growth for Q1 2020 was 14 percent. A change in consumer behavior caused by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions impacted mobile networks by geographically shifting traffic loads; for example, daytime loads moved, to a degree, from city centers to suburban residential areas due to home-working guidance. This effect was most pronounced in areas with limited penetration of fixed residential broadband connections. Generally, the traffic volumes were only modestly affected in mobile networks in markets where fixed network connections are common.

Over the long-term, traffic1 growth is driven by both the rising number of smartphone subscriptions and an increasing average data volume per subscription, fueled primarily by more viewing of video content. Figure 15 shows total global monthly network data and voice traffic from Q1 2014 to Q1 2020, along with the year-on-year percentage change for mobile network data traffic.

Figure 15: Global mobile network data traffic and year-on-year growth (EB per month)

Figure 15: Global mobile network data traffic and year-on-year growth (EB per month)

1 Traffic does not include DVB-H, Wi-Fi or Mobile WiMAX. VoIP is included